Seasonal Affective Disorder – The Winter Blues

By PCS - 01/06/2017


In the middle of winter it can seem like the sun sets at noon every day. Even those of us in warm climates can feel the effects of winter’s shorter days and cooler nights. If you notice an increase in mood swings, anxiety, or lethargy in the midst of winter, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder is characterized by a change in moods or an occurrence of depression around the same time every year. It’s causes are linked most often to a reduction of sunlight in the fall and winter months, although it can occur at different times for different people. In winter, SAD can manifest due to a change in daily physical habits.

In places with especially dark and cold winters, going outside or doing physical work other than what is absolutely necessary can seem like a serious chore. Early sunsets make us feel sleepy early and can derail our sleep schedule. Cold winds and snow can deter us from the outdoor time our bodies are used to. These small things are all contributing factors to the chemical changes that can lead to SAD.

Because Seasonal Affective Disorder happens around the same time every year, now is the perfect time to begin building a winter routine that keeps you active and happy! Finding out which winter friendly actions keep you out of the winter blues is the first step to avoiding completely next year. With some of the causes of winter SAD in mind, we have compiled a list of ideas for you to experiment with in this cold season!

Low sunlight/outdoor time:

A lack of sunshine is often considered as the key cause of SAD. Even if it isn’t cold where you live, the short days may be affecting your moods. Even a adding a tiny amount of outdoor activity during your day can drastically affect your happiness. Here are some out of the box ideas to get outside this season and don’t forget to bundle up!

  1. Go on a picture walk. This season offers some of the most beautiful scenery!
  2. Try a winter picnic!
  3. Try a unique winter sport like snowshoeing ( or cross country skiing (
  4. Help with the outdoor decorating (or decoration cleanup).


Lack of physical activity:

Hopefully getting outside gives you plenty of wintertime workout. But if you are feeling lethargic and don’t feel like trekking outside on those chilly days, there are plenty of ways to get your blood pumping at home. A lack of physical activity is another probable cause of SAD. A daily exercise or stretching regimen can really help regulate your mood. Plus, with New Year’s incoming, it is a great time to begin warming up for your resolution!

Some tips for exercise:

Some tips for stretches:


Sleep schedule problems:

As the days get darker, the human body produces sleep related hormones for an extended period while you are awake. This can lead to a disruption of your circadian rhythm, or your “internal clock”. Getting outside and exercising both help manage this problem. There are other methods for dealing with the sleep related symptoms of SAD. At home, you can try one of the many relaxation methods designed to help you sleep. Setting a pre-sleep routine is a great way to get calmed down before you get into bed. Also, avoiding screens for an hour before you go to sleep can be a great way to avoid restless nights.

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