When the sun is shining, people tend to feel happier and more energetic. Conversely, when it is dark and gloomy, people tend to lack energy and feel less sociable. The amount of sunlight that you get can affect your mood, appetite, energy levels and sex drive. If this sounds familiar, you may have a milder form of SAD called winter blues (people with SAD have more severe depressive symptoms).
10 tips to help combat the winter blues
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, seek help from your GP. Being cold makes you more depressed. It has also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and vitamin D supplements. Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs.
See the light
Light therapy can be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day. Light boxes give out very bright light that is at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. They are not available on the NHS and cost around £100 or more.
Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD. It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
See your friends and family
It has been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits.
Talk it through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. See your GP for information on what is available locally on the NHS and privately.
Join a support group
Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it's like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable. SADA is the UK's only registered charity dedicated to seasonal affective disorder. It costs £12 (£7 for concessions) to join and you'll receive an information pack, regular newsletters, discounts on products such as light boxes and contacts for telephone support.
If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
Source NHS Choices: Beating the winter blues