12 Nov 2019

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD and how to counter it

With the clocks after going back the evenings will start to get darker and it won’t be too long until the mornings do as well. While people will talk about the winter blues Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is something that can affect the mental health of many people. There are a couple of ways that you can help counter it. 

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It begins and ends at about the same time every year. For most people, the symptoms start around late autumn and continue into the winter months. It can affect people by:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

Some facts about SAD

5% to 6% of the U.S. population suffers from full-blown SAD with an additional 15% afflicted with subsyndromal SAD. In Ireland, it is estimated to affect approximately one in 15 people between September and April. So as you can see, it’s something that affects a lot of people.

What can you do to treat SAD?

Treatments for SAD can include medications and psychotherapy. If you’re looking for a few ways to help counter it day to day especially during the dark winter days it can include. 

Get some light into your life

Something as simple as this can help. It may be as simple as making your house brighter. This could include keeping your blinds and curtains open during the day. Also, think about the layout design of the rooms in your house. Use bright colors on walls and light-colored upholstery. You might also get up earlier to take advantage of as much daylight as possible. And, if possible, sit near a window in college or at work.

Diet and Exercise

These get highlighted again and again but make sure you:

  • Exercise
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Eat a well-balanced diet

Another thing you can do is spend time outdoors if possible. Take up a hobby at weekends where you’ll be outdoors. Here’s a useful link for park-runs that take place around the country. If you’re not a fan of running here are some trails you can try out. Sleep is also hugely important so make time to relax. Eat healthy foods for more energy and be smart when it comes to caffeine and alcohol.


Just hang out with friends and family. It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off symptoms. So make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about. If you get invites to social events accept them. Don’t forget that humans are social animals. 

These are a few of the things you can do to help counter SAD. From a more medical standpoint, you might also want to:

  • Talk to your GP about prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and diet supplements (including vitamin D)
  • Consider doing light therapy

Above all, one of the most important things you can do is watch for the early signs of SAD and educate yourself.

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