What is SAD and how to overcome it- Holly Snowdon

Feb 1, 2019 | Blog, Nutrition, Wellness

When I first heard about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I was sceptical as to whether it was real. Surely the weather couldn’t have such a dramatic impact on our moods?!

However, after several years of experiencing the side effects of the winter months, there is no doubt that SAD is NOT a myth.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term SAD, it is a form of depression related to the changes in seasons. And, it’s more common than you might think. According to a UK study undertaken by The Weather Channel and YouGov, a mammoth one in three people suffer from SAD. It can manifest itself in several ways including low energy levels, low self-esteem and anxiety.


If, like me, the lack of sunshine and warmth really gets you down, take a look at my tips that will help put a spring back in your step.

Embrace Hygge

Hygge is a Scandinavian concept discovered in the last couple of years by other countries like the UK. It encourages people to put certain things in place during winter to achieve a feeling of cosy contentment and happiness through enjoying the simple things in life. Think fluffy socks, cups of hot chocolate, candles, movie nights, good books and snuggling up in front of a fire.

Hygge has been ingrained in Danish culture since the 1800’s and credited as one of the reasons why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world.

So instead of stewing in your misery during winter, pop on a good movie, light some candles and get out a snuggly blanket until Spring arrives.

Eat for happiness

It’s perfectly acceptable to indulge into a few more carbs during the winter months – hey, we need the extra insulation right!? Now I’m not telling you to head down to your local kebab shop and order an extra-large portion of cheesy chips, but more along the lines of baked potatoes, warming stews/ soups and flavoursome curries. These are the types of comfort foods that will provide you with, well, comfort, whilst leaving you satisfied and energised.

Foods rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruit and BumbleZest!), oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel), nuts, wholegrains and pulses, bananas and eggs have also been proven to enhance mood.

When in doubt, eat the rainbow (regardless of the time of year).

Move it

For many of us, exercise is the last thing we feel like doing in Winter, with the cold, dark mornings and the short days. However, I can promise you’ll feel a thousand times better if you make time to regularly move your body. In addition to helping you keep in good shape, exercise releases feel-good, brain chemicals that will help you feel energised whilst reducing stress. It’s a no brainer really!

Exercise is also a great way of being sociable, another key mood booster during winter. There are tonnes of fitness classes available today from yoga and pilates, to boxing and spinning. You never know, join up and you could meet a friend for life!

Take up a new hobby

Research highlights that keeping busy with hobbies is a fantastic way to beat the SAD or the winter blues. Keeping your brain active and distracted from the feeling of sadness will help alter the way your brain works, thus enhancing the sense of pleasure in everyday life. Reading, learning to play an instrument, cooking/baking, learning a new language, joining your local climbing wall and volunteering are just a few ideas of hobbies you could try out.


Book a trip

Globetrotting might be out of the question for many, especially as Christmas has rinsed our bank accounts, but, if you can, booking a trip and getting a little winter sun is a great way to combat SAD.

If you really can’t get away anytime soon, then even booking a trip for later on in the year will help a little, as you’ll have something to look forward to.

There is light (and, ideally, sunshine and warmth!) at the end of what seems like a very dark and gloomy tunnel!

Soak up the natural light

If booking a trip is out of the question, endeavour to get outside for at least 30 mins a day. Getting daylight as early as possible in the day helps increase cortisol and reduce melatonin, which means that your body is resetting for the day and your circadian rhythms are being set for allowing sleep later on.

However, I realise this is challenging, as you’ll more than likely be coming to and from work in the dark, but if you can take a walk on your lunch break, exposure to the natural light will make you feel more energetic and will help activate your brain, enabling you to have a super productive afternoon at work. Plus you’ll be getting in some extra steps/exercise- win win!

I’d also recommend investing in a full spectrum bulb light and using it daily. These lights have been designed to mimic sunlight and have been proven to have a positive impact on your mood.

Give these tips of mine a try and make the remainder of your winter an enjoyable one!

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