There's a great deal of controversy about Seasonal Affective Disorder, frequently known as 'SAD Syndrome'. In essence, the lack of light in winter months can cause a range of symptoms ranging from fatigue and lethargy to more widespread and serious psychological problems. Among the 7% thought to be affected by SAD in the UK, problems such as acute depression, insomnia, changes in libido and over eating have been reported. The official website for SAD sufferers estimate that as mush as a further 17% of the population suffer less pronounced effects (generally termed as the 'winter blues') during this period also.

The cause of SAD is thought to be biochemical imbalances caused in the hypothalamus due to the lack of light in winter months. It mainly affects people aged 18-35, with people in their twenties being most prone in Northern climates. Reinforcing this link between mood and sunlight is the fact that the syndrome is almost unheard of in equatorial regions.

For a long time sufferers were dismissed and it is still unclear to researchers whether SAD is a separate disorder or is part of a more general disorder that is particularly influenced by certain months of the year. Many people describe the tendencies to sleep in, eat more carbohydrates and socially withdraw during the darker months as a type of hibernation, behaviour seen in some mammals that live in particularly cold and harsh environments. In the past this has led to accusations of 'laziness' from detractors.

If you are feeling down, depressed or suffer from a lack of energy during winter, there are some positive steps you can take in order to help yourself feel better.

Light Therapy

The lack of light during the winter period is thought to cause a deficit of chemicals produced by the brain. Light therapy involves the patient being exposed to full spectrum light for several hours per day, although others have reported benefits simply by taking the effort to get and spend more time in natural light. Staying in brightly lit conditions for several hours is required, which sometimes isn't possible when inclement or overcast weather is the norm. Making sure that some high-intensity lamps are positioned around your customary seating position at home can help in the evening, and provided that you do not look directly at the bubs should have no potential side effects.

With the widespread use of LED bulbs, high intensity light lamps can also be run for extended periods without unduly running up electricity bills too.


As with many forms of depression, exercise can help in both boosting chemicals to the bran and altering habits that can lead to depressive symptoms. Although it is tempting to site in and vegetate whilst it is cold, if you are feeling down this can lead to dwelling on your problems and a sense of lethargy. Exercise, especially brisk exercise, boosts adrenalin and endorphins which act as euphoric substances in the brain. It also creates a pattern of activity and a sense of achievement which helps in a cognitive manner in battling depression.

Exercise can be undertaken outdoors, ensuring the suffered gets more natural light and fresh air, which can also help combat the impression of being 'locked inside' during winter.

Setting goals and targets

Another good way to avoid feelings of despondency during winter months is to set a series of goals or targets. Learning something or even dealing with outstanding email or correspondence whilst undergoing light therapy can give a sufferer a sense of completion and achievement which can positively affect their outlook.


In the worst cases, medication for depression can be prescribed by a GP. Depression is a serious condition and its potential effects should not be ignored. Although there is often stigma attached to taking anti-depressants (and care must be taken with side-effects and interactions with other things such as alcohol), effective treatment can restore a quality of life during the periods of the year when the sufferer is more prone to symptoms.

Author's Bio: 

Trevor works as a marketer for a company issuing credit cards and is looking forward to the sunnier and warmer climate of Spring.