MoneyConsumerConsumer Reports


Brightening those winter blues: How to recognize and handle seasonal affective disorder

Posted at 6:25 AM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-30 14:09:24-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Winter is here, and with it, not only colder weather but shorter days. With less sunlight, you might be finding yourself feeling a little down. But that's OK. There are ways to beat the winter blues.

"Less sunlight during the day affects how our bodies regulate serotonin and melatonin. And when levels of these hormones are thrown off, it can affect our mood and sleep," said Catherine Roberts with Consumer Reports.

For some people, this disruption can be dramatic, and lead to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. Signs include weight gain, fatigue, trouble concentrating and other things that make you feel off, and not like yourself.

"Five or more of those symptoms are enough for a doctor to diagnose you with seasonal affective disorder. But many more people have what’s called subsyndromal S.A.D., where you’re not completely disabled by winter, but you’re also not at your best," said Roberts.

Treatment can include medication along with light therapy — sitting in front of a light box each morning to trick your eyes and brain that the sun is up. You can find light-therapy boxes over the counter, but Consumer Reports recommends only using one with a doctor’s diagnosis.

"Some conditions that can mimic depression, like bipolar disorder, can actually get worse with treatments for S.A.D.," Roberts said.

Some other ways to fight off the winter blues include getting outside to soak up as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising daily, and try to push yourself to be social, schedule lunch with a friend, even if you don’t feel like it. These interactions may help lift your mood.

If your doctor agrees that light therapy is right for you, it’s recommended that you choose a light therapy box that produces at least 10,000 lux.