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Dealing With the Winter Blues                                    

by Helen Selenati


It is common for people in the northern hemisphere to feel depressed in the months following the holidays when the short winter days are still dark and the weather tends to be cloudy. This depression which commonly shows up during the winter months is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.  It is more prevalent at higher latitudes and younger people and women in particular are at greater risk of developing the symptoms.

Symptoms that are often related to SAD are:

-      Prolonged duration of depression lasting about five months on average

-      Oversleeping and feeling fatigued and lethargic most of the time

-      Overeating, craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

The etiology or cause of the winter blues or SAD is not only due to the lack of sunlight but can also be attributed to working and living in dark indoor environments. Research has shown that SAD could be the result of shifted circadian rhythms. When your internal 'body clock' shifts, the wrong hormones are produced at the wrong time of day, causing the symptoms of SAD.

Some recommendations for alleviating the winter blues :

-      Try to get out into the daylight as often as possible. If the weather permits, go outdoors at lunchtime when the natural light is at its brightest. Once in a while on a sunny day, leave work while it is still light outside (the work will still be there the next day).

-      Plan fun activities outdoors on the weekend or simply take a walk during the middle of the day.

-      Read books and enjoy music and movies with an uplifting theme.

-      Exercise regularly at least 3 times a week and pay special attention to your posture.  Sitting and standing upright and breathing deeply can make a big difference to your general attitude and feeling of well-being.

-      Seek the company of upbeat friends and family members who have a positive outlook on life - they can have a big influence on the quality of your mood. 

-      Place live flowers with vibrant colors in your living and work space.

-      Open the blinds and allow as much daylight into the rooms where you work, play and live.

-       Wear fun colored clothing that cheers you up.

-      Take advantage of the short days by noticing the beautiful light and colors in the sky at dawn and dusk.  Look for rainbows after a rain shower.

-      Light therapy lasting from 15 to 30 minutes per day could also be considered as a treatment approach.  These lights should have an ultra-violet block to prevent potential danger to the skin and the eyes. Numerous sources for these therapy lights can be found on the internet (search under “Light therapy”).

A positive response to these strategies should be evident within a week or two. People notice that they awaken earlier and easier in the mornings and feel more refreshed and energetic during the day. They sleep better throughout the night, and don't feel exhausted or fatigued any more. The cravings for carbohydrates diminish and there is less of a tendency to overeat.  These recommendations can help in uplifting your mood and general feeling of well-being.  

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
-- Victor Hugo 

Helen Selenati is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Coach. She has a private practice in Redwood City and can be reached at helen@selenati.com or by calling 650-596-0807. Also visit www.selenati.com



Copyright © 2004 - 2017 Helen Selenati