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Managing Seasonal Depression

Managing Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that tends to occur during the fall and winter months. This condition affects millions of people worldwide, causing feelings of sadness, lack of energy, oversleeping, and even weight gain. If you or someone you know experiences seasonal depression, it's essential to know that there are effective ways to manage this condition. Here, we'll explore some strategies to help cope with SAD and make the winter months more manageable.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, typically starting in late fall or early winter and fading during the spring and summer. It's thought to be influenced by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter, which may affect an individual's serotonin levels — a neurotransmitter that affects mood.

Light Therapy

One of the most common treatments for SAD is light therapy. This involves sitting near a special light box that emits bright light (much brighter than typical indoor lighting). It's believed that light can help regulate your body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) and boost serotonin levels. The Mayo Clinic recommends using a lightbox within the first hour of waking up in the morning for about 20-30 minutes.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating SAD. CBT-SAD, a version of CBT specifically for SAD, involves working with a mental health professional to identify negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. It also includes behavioral activation, a technique that encourages patients to engage in activities they enjoy to combat feelings of depression.

Regular Exercise

Exercise isn't just for physical health. It has significant benefits for mental health, too. Regular exercise can boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and even alleviate symptoms of SAD. Whether it's a brisk walk outside (which can also help you get some natural light) or an indoor workout, aim to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine. Finding unique ways to exercise during the cold months can be challenging, but trying new activities can also be exciting.

Healthy Diet

While it's normal to crave comfort foods during the cold months, maintaining a balanced diet is crucial. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have been found to help reduce symptoms of depression. Also, try incorporating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals.

Social Connection

Isolation can exacerbate feelings of depression. Even if it's cold outside, try to stay connected with friends and family. This could be through video calls, social media, or even attending small gatherings if it's safe.


For some individuals, medication may be necessary to manage SAD. Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be effective in treating SAD. However, discussing this option with a healthcare provider is important, as these medications can have side effects.

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and improve symptoms of depression. These practices can help you focus on the present moment and create a sense of calm.

Mental Wellness in Glasgow, MT

While seasonal depression can be challenging, these strategies can help you manage the symptoms. It’s also important to reach out to a healthcare provider if you are expecting symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder to gain needed support to help you through the winter months.

At Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, we offer mental health services 24/7 to our patients. We are proud to partner with clinicians in the area to get you the help you need fast, including evaluation, inpatient care, and outpatient follow-up care. And with our secure video technology, we can reduce wait times by an average of 15 minutes.

You are not alone. Support is available. To learn more about our services, visit us online or give us a call at (406) 228-3500 to get started.