Understanding SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. the Winter Blues)

Understanding SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. the Winter Blues)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more commonly known as the Winter Blues.  SAD affects 62 million Americans, according to Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University.

Symptoms include:

  • mood changes
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sadness
  • difficulty with relationships
  • and feeling hopeless

These symptoms are real and the reason is because you have decreased exposure to the sun – days are shorter, cloudy days block the sunlight, colder temperatures keep you inside. The lack of sunlight and activity level affects the body’s ability to produce energy. Know your body, know what is normal for you.


  • Stay active. Here are some suggestions: walk, jump rope, weight training, workout DVD, join a gym or class.
  • Maintain social activity.
  • Maintain diet.
  • Maintain hydration,
  • Take on a new hobby.
  • Open your blinds or curtains and let natural sunlight in.
  • Reduce your stress level.
  • Bundle up and go outside (See our Winter Activity list below).

As the days get cooler and become shorter, you may find yourself hibernating inside. Staying inside too long can result in cabin fever, winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or even depression. Don’t let winter keep you from enjoying family time together.

There are many winter activities your family can enjoy. Fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity can help you conquer this winter.

  • Take a drive and look at the snowy scenery.
  • Have an indoor campout. Put up a tent or build one with blankets.
  • Make a birdfeeder for feathered friends who stay the winter.
  • Bundle up and go for a walk in the snow.
  • Create a snowman or snow sculpture. Make sure the snow is packable for best results.
  • Build a winter bon fire and have smores and hot chocolate.
  • Paint the snow rainbow colors. All you need is a spray bottle, food dye, and water.
  • Make a snow maze or obstacle course and have timed relay races.
  • Have a snowball battle.
  • Try one of these Indoor Activities: bowling, rock climbing, swimming, take an art or music class, roller skating, join a gym, walk on an indoor track.
  • Some geographical locations offer these fun winter activities: Snow Tubing, Down Hill Skiing, Cross-country Skiing, Snowshoeing, Snowboarding, Sleigh Rides, Ice-skating, Snowmobile Tours, Snowcat Tours, and Off Road Adventure Tours.

If you recognize symptoms of SAD in yourself ask for help, or if you recognize symptoms in someone else – offer to help.

Talk to your doctor.  A doctor who knows your history will be best able to prescribe a plan for you. Some patients may experience cases that require light therapy, vitamin supplements, counseling, or anti-depressants.


Share this article with friends and family to help them understand why they are affected by the winter blues and what they can do.

How about you?  Do you become affected each winter by the winter blues?  Do you have any tips to share for making it through winter blues?  We would love to hear about them. 




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