Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Download the Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder resource HERE or continue to read below.

Studies on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) increasingly link a lack of light exposure during winter months to fatigue, overeating, and tendency to oversleep. Practicing the following healthy habits can help keep your spirits up when the daylight diminishes.

Ready Your Mind in the Fall

It’s better to set yourself up for the winter season by starting in the fall season — doing enjoyable activities, initiating friend group chats and outings, choosing fun hobbies, and engaging in clubs or community service.

  • Tip: regularly taking part in these activities ahead of time is much easier than trying to start from scratch once the winter blues have already set in

Light Up Your Life

A lack of sunshine is one of the root causes of SAD; therefore, getting more light can help alleviate symptoms. Light therapy boxes or lamps are effective options, and even painting your walls a lighter color can work wonders.

  • Tip: replace your indoor lights with full spectrum bulbs or fully open your windows to let in the maximum amount of natural light


Create Social Situations

The colder months tend to make us want to hunker down and isolate from our loved ones. Nonetheless, connecting with others regularly is important for our mental health.

  • Tip: try creating a weekly dinner, game night, phone call, or hang out session that you can look forward to on a regular basis
  • Tip: plan outings around shared interests, hobbies, or volunteer work with a shared purpose


Get Moving

Exercising in the winter can be hard, as the cold weather can drain motivation and create real restrictions, but maintaining a workout schedule will keep your spirits high and your time occupied.

  • Tip: try outdoor activities as they give more opportunity to get natural light exposure
  • Tip: if the weather is bad, try to find indoor activities or online exercise classes that you enjoy


Change Your Diet

If you are experiencing carb cravings in winter, this may be due to lower levels of the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain, like serotonin. Vitamin D deficiency may also be a risk factor for depressive symptoms. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that low levels of vitamin D — caused by low dietary intake of this vitamin or not enough sunlight exposure — are common in people with SAD.

Experts don’t know for sure whether taking Vitamin D supplements can relieve symptoms of SAD, but ensuring you get enough sunlight during the day and incorporating Vitamin D rich foods into your diet may help.

  • Tip: increase those feel-good chemicals with healthier carbs like popcorn, pretzels, and brown rice; and incorporate foods high in Vitamin D, like salmon, tuna, eggs, and fortified milk or juices
  • Tip: consider limiting or avoiding alcohol, as this can worsen symptoms
  • Tip: talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels and whether supplements would be right for you


Be Mindful

Observe your experiences with a sense of curiosity and non-judgement, rather than ruminating on them. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of winter, try to embrace the season and find things you like about it by creating a daily gratitude list. Or write positive affirmations on sticky notes where you will see them everyday. You can also try writing reminders to be mindful with a dry erase marker on your mirror.



If you are taking medication(s) or considering medication options to manage symptoms of SAD, talk to your prescriber or a licensed medical professional for guidance. When taking medication, ensure you are always taking it as prescribed and avoid missing doses.


Additional Resources


  • Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder).,Talk%20to%20your%20healthcare%20provider.
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. (2019). Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Northwestern Medicine. (2023). 5 Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
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