Help to beat the winter blues

For sufferers of SAD the winter can be a challenging time. Here are some simple solutions that can help us all to beat the winter blues.

The changing seasons affect the world around us, as the leaves turn from green to brown and the land turns the white of frost and snow.

For many of us there’s another colour associated with winter: blue.

The winter blues can be more serious than a simple, seasonal change in shade. It’s a medically recognised condition, known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

It’s thought that around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million across northern Europe suffer from SAD.


For sufferers, the symptoms of SAD usually recur each winter. According to The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, diagnosis of the condition can be made after three or more consecutive winters of symptoms, which include the following:

  • Sleep problems
  • Lethargy
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Depression
  • Social problems
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of libido
  • Mood changes

Many SAD sufferers also show signs of a weakened immune system and are more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.


The exact causes of SAD are not fully known but it is often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight. This lack of exposure affects the body’s internal clock, the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which influence sleep, appetite and mood.

Some people may also be more vulnerable to SAD for genetic reasons, with cases appearing to run in families.


With any medical condition, it’s recommended that you consult with your GP or doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis and, if necessary, you may be prescribed treatments such as antidepressants or counselling.

However, there are a range of simple steps you can follow to help alleviate the symptoms, including:

Keeping fit and active

Regular exercise boosts serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals.

Getting outside

This is especially useful around midday, to allow you to gain maximum exposure to daylight.

Light therapy

To supplement your exposure to daylight, you could use a special ‘light box’ which emits wavelengths of light similar to natural light.

Keeping warm

Wear warm clothes, drink hot drinks, eat hot food and, if possible, keep your home between 18C and 21C.

Eating a healthy diet

The right foods can boost your energy levels, and balancing carbohydrates such as potatoes and pasta with fresh fruit and vegetables can help avoid unnecessary weight gain and post-meal slumps.


Spending time with friends and family, virtually and in-person, can help boost your mood, provide distraction and provides the opportunity to speak to other people, discuss and share your concerns.

What helps you with the winter blues?

From hygge to hiking, we all have different self-care strategies to help us through the winter months.

This content was first published by ICAS. The original content can be viewed by clicking here.