Are you SAD? – Beat the Winter Blues

So many people around the world suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a form of depression that occurs in the fall and winter months. The cause really isn’t known however it seems that the insufficient exposure to the ultra-violet radiation contained in sunlight may be the cause. But its not limited to fall and winter. Some can feel this way whenever there is a rainy or gray day even in the spring and summer. The symptoms range from feeling depressed or melancholy, anxious, tired, or just a general lack of interest in doing anything. These symptoms can also be from other causes so best to consult your doctor if you start feeling this way. It’s also a good idea to get a complete blood test to check your vitamin D level.

I love the fall and winter and look at it as a time to enjoy being home more, cooking soups, winter squashes and baking. Enjoyable inside activities should be taking place such as reading, conversation, games, puzzles, etc The summer is so filled with activity that the winter is a time of “going inside” and reflecting on the year and what you would like to see develop in the future. Nothing better than an old movie on a Saturday afternoon when it’s cold and gray outside! However many people feel the opposite and the shorter days and absence of light make them dread the fall and winter. For those people the winter is a good time to take up a new hobby or class. Last winter I took a knitting class. It was so much fun. I met great people and made so many holiday gifts! You need to make sure you are having fun in life. Get together with friends. Buy some new music to listen to. Music therapy is very effective for any type of malaise. If things are not so great and you are out of work, try starting a group with others you know that are in the same situation. You can make a dish and meet at a different house each month to improve your resume and interviewing skills. Having support in any area of your life is important. It helps you to realize that your situation is not unique and it will feel less scary. What I find is that while many people know they need to take steps to do things, they don’t. Getting out of a rut requires work so sometimes you have to push yourself to get started.

There are many alternative ways to deal with SAD. I always suggest combining a variety of remedies and lifestyle changes. Taking a holistic view means looking at and working on the whole person. First, I recommend doing a diet check. Food affects our brain chemistry and our mood so it’s important to take stock to see if what you are eating is contributing to what you are feeling. You have heard this so many times but sugar is something to avoid as much as possible. After that rush it gives you, it depletes your serotonin levels soon after. Stay away from the white stuff such as bread, pasta and white rice and chose multigrain breads and pasta and other whole grains. Experiment with things like quinoa and barley and brown rice. In addition to the white stuff bringing you down it makes you gain weight and that will not lift your spirits!

Low levels of serotonin can cause SAD. Foods that raise serotonin levels are:

• Beans such as chickpea, lentil, kidney, black beans and split peas.
• Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax.
• Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews and peanuts or peanut butter.
• Root vegetables such as squash, beets, sweet potatoes and winter squashes,
• Also include leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach that provide b vitamins which also help mood.

Supplements & Herbs that help:

B complex – a good b complex will include B6, B12 and folic acid. B vitamins support mood by assisting the brain in producing neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) called serotonin.

Omega 3 – Studies suggest that daily intake of omega 3 fatty aids may help prevent depression and anxiety. I like Omega Zen which is a vegetarian source of omega 3’s as well as flax seed and hemp oil. There is much concern about getting omega 3’s from fish oil due to the high levels of mercury found in some fish which his why I recommend the other sources.

Multivitamin – a good multivitamin has various minerals such as magnesium which reduces anxiety and muscle tension and B vitamins mentioned above. Its good insurance!

Vitamin D – Like I said earlier, some research suggests that a vitamin D deficiency might be a cause of SAD and that supplementing might help. Since we get vitamin D naturally from the sun it makes sense that we are deficient during the fall and winter months. If you can get out each day when it’s sunny that would be helpful.

Other tips:

Exercise – Any type of exercise is beneficial to raise your serotonin levels. I especially like yoga as it is benefical for mood and relaxation. However try something new like belly or ballroom dancing, bowling or anything that you think would be fun!

Aromatherapy – One of my very favorite things to do is to make oils for people. In addition to my own experience in helping people with SAD or any type of depression or anxiety, studies have shown that citrus oils are uplifting and great for elevating mood. Try essential oil such as lemon, orange or lime. I love to mix them together by adding 5 drops of each to one ounce of massage oil such as jojoba, almond or plain olive oil. You can use it as body oil or just put some over your heart or on the inside of your wrists or bottom of your feet. You can also buy something called a diffuser and out a few drops of oil in and it will scent your room. Anyone who knows me knows that I never go anywhere without my lavender oil. It is great for many things but is terrific for elevating mood and also for calming. Make sure you are buying 100% essential oils.

Light therapy – Since lack of light is the issue with SAD. You can buy a light box to help replicate natural sunlight. The light form a light box mimics outdoor light which helps adjust daily sleep cycles. You can use the light box for 30 minutes or longer each morning, with bright light shining indirectly toward your eyes. Using a light therapy box may also help with other types of depression.

Lastly, try to change your mind set about this time of year. Instead of dreading it try to think of it as a time to experience new things. The winter solstice has been known as a rebirth for thousands of years and a time of celebration, so instead of dread, have gratitude for this beautiful time of the year. Gratitude is so important and we all have something to be grateful for. Just by saying thank you to the universe or whomever you pray to invites positive emotions into your life.

Happy winter solstice!




  1. Hi Maria, Great Blog Post! Although I don’t suffer from SAD, I think all your tips are great. I think having a hobby & interest in learning new things is definitely important. I have so many interests & not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I think healthy eating is so important & think that’s why I love lentil soup. I love the lavender oil as well. Keep up the good work. Talk to you soon. xoxo Kathy

  2. Maria, I also live in Maplewood and am wondering if you are Maltese? Your last name leads me to think so. Thanks for the blog. Your provide lots of good information.

    Roseann Micallef

  3. Hi Roseann, Tabone is my husbands name. His family is Italian and from Sicily but we know that there are so many Tabones in Malta. We are assuming there is a connection but don’t know for sure. We have been told that half of Malta is named Tabone! Best, Maria