Don’t let Seasonal Affective Disorder Darken your Mood
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression typically associated with the winter. This
form of depression affects approximately 1 in 15 Irish people between September and April.
The symptoms of SAD are the most severe during December, January, and February.
The lack of sunlight in the Autumn and Winter can impact our body’s melatonin and
serotonin — natural substances that play a role in our sleep timing and mood. When
combined, these factors may lead to SAD.
How exactly does it affect us?
In many cases, the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder appear during late autumn or
early winter and lessen on sunnier days. Symptoms may start mild and become more severe
as the season progresses.
The symptoms of SAD include:
 – Depression – feeling low, down in yourself, or hopeless about the future.
 – Oversleeping/interrupted sleep – sleeping patterns can be disturbed, resulting in
difficulty falling asleep or difficulty waking up and getting out of bed in the morning.
 – Concentration levels – finding it difficult to focus and complete projects inside and
outside work.
 – Lethargy – lacking the energy when trying to complete day-to-day tasks and feeling
tired consistently.
 – Social Problems – you may withdraw from others and struggle to connect with
loved ones.
 – Change in behaviour – Individuals suffering from SAD may behave and act
differently from how they do at other times of the year.
 – Social Problems – you may withdraw from others and struggle to connect with
loved ones.

Why might someone suffer from SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder affects women more often than men. SAD also occurs more
frequently in younger adults than in older adults. Certain factors that can increase your risk
of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) include:
 – Family history: Individuals with SAD are likelier to have relatives with SAD or
another form of depression.
 – Having bipolar or major depression: Symptoms of depression may worsen with
seasonal changes if you have one of these conditions.
 – Living far from the equator: SAD is more prevalent among people who live far
north or south of the equator. This depression occurs due to the lack of light. It mainly
affects countries relatively far from the equator, such as Ireland.

 – Low vitamin D levels: Some of our vitamin D is produced when our skin is
exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D assists in boosting our serotonin activity. Less
sunlight and lack of vitamin D from foods and other sources can result in low levels of
vitamin D in the body. This can put you at risk of developing SAD.

What can we change in our lifestyle to be kinder to ourselves and overcome these
You can improve your quality of life and nurture your wellbeing by implementing small
lifestyle changes.

  1. Invest in Light Therapy – As a lack of sunlight is the primary cause of SAD, buying
    and using a SAD lamp, as recommended, will improve your wellbeing. Research has
    found light therapy reduces the symptoms of SAD when used appropriately and gives
    your brain the chemical balance it’s missing from natural sunlight. Please make sure
    you buy a verified SAD Lamp from a verified vendor.
  2. Get moving in the daylight! Also, get outside during daylight hours and expose
    yourself to the sun. Even in the small amounts that winter allows, sunlight will boost
    your serotonin production! Brisk walks and other forms of exercise, such as
    swimming or running, will improve your mood and stop you from feeling sluggish
    during the winter months!
  3. Improve your diet: The winter months will have us craving carbs, so it’s essential to
    be mindful and create a balanced diet, substituting unhealthy carbs with fish, nuts,
    fresh fruit, and vegetables. Changing how we eat will support us in having a healthy
    body and mind.
  4. Engage in activities that bring you joy: Fill up the cold days with activities that give
    you a sense of comfort and nourishment. Carve out time to read your favourite book,
    watch a new series on Netflix or play guitar. By taking the time to connect with what
    matters, you will significantly improve your mood. Spending quality time with those
    you love will nurture your wellbeing, too!
  5. Exercise– Don’t let the cold weather stop you from getting regular exercise, which is
    essential for managing depression. Get out during the day to soak up as much sun
    as possible. At work, take the stairs where possible. Get creative at increasing your
    step count, stopping you from feeling sluggish during the autumn and winter!

If you are struggling with the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, Fettle’s caring
and qualified counsellors are here to help. Use code DRIFTFETTLE for €10 off your first
appointment or €20 off Fettle+ subscription packages*.
*code applies to 2+ Fettle+ sessions a month