How To Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder at Home With These Simple Steps

Saying goodbye to the summer is never easy. For some people, the seasonal change dramatically affects their lives.

Some people feel significantly low when the days get shorter and colder as they suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Newsweek spoke to two experts to find out how to deal with the anxiety and depression that the fall and winter months may bring.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD. SAD is four times more common in women than in men.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Are the Symptoms?

It is a type of depression related to changes in seasons—SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. So people who suffer from this condition may find they feel moody, anxious, and upset from around the end of September until March.

Behavioral specialist Abdullah Boulad told Newsweek: "The reasons sufferers may experience this condition can be complex and varied. It is usually due to the change in light schedule and its effect on the body, namely on the pattern of serotonin, the "happy" hormone. Although most experience this in the winter due to lower light exposure and colder weather, some are more predisposed to this condition than others."

sad woman
Stock image of a sad woman looking out of a window on a rainy day. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. iStock/Getty Images Plus/tommaso79

How to Beat the 'Fall and Winter Blues'

Newsweek previously shared an article about specially crafted lamps for sufferers of SAD. The lamps simulate sunlight and prompt the brain into releasing serotonin.

But this fall, Newsweek looked into ways you can beat fall depression without spending a dime.

Boulad, the founder of The Balance rehab clinics, recommends getting as much "sunlight without sunglasses to start your internal body clock and appreciate the day."

Anton Kotelnikov, a mental well-being expert and co-founder of Afterglow—a well-being app—has shared five feel-good things you could do this fall to beat the blues.

  1. Go on a hike: a good hike boosts endorphins, helps clear your mind, and reduces stress levels. So get out there and enjoy nature's splendor! Make sure to catch the golden hour for some "no-filter" magical snaps.
  2. Meet up with friends: the winter season can be pretty isolating, which can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. On the flip side, social interaction is key to maintaining mental health during winter.
  3. Extend a hand: as the temperature drops and we head into winter, it's more important than ever to help those struggling. Small acts of kindness—like volunteering at an animal shelter or checking in on a loved one—offer more than just a momentary sense of joy. It can give you a sense of purpose, which can have lasting effects on your health, happiness, and overall well-being.
  4. Binge-watch shows made for autumn: some films are best enjoyed snuggled up on a sofa with a cup of cocoa. So get cozy and queue up your favorite autumn-themed movies! The best autumn films, according to IMDB, include Chocolat, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally.
  5. Fill your space with Hygge vibes—this Danish concept revolves around coziness, warmth, and comfort, and autumn is the perfect time to savor and welcome all these things into your home.
Meditation
Stock image of a woman meditating indoors on a rainy day. Experts recommend getting as much "sunlight without sunglasses to start your internal body clock and appreciate the day" during the winter months. iStock/Getty Images Plus/fizkes

Last but not least, international wellness guide Jasmin Harsono shared a few meditation tips to "help lower our stress levels, regulate the nervous system, feel calm, energized, and focused."

According to Mayo Clinic, switching off your thoughts and feelings "can wipe away the day's stress." The nonprofit American academic medical center also states meditation may be useful if you have chronic pain, anxiety and sleep problems.

Speaking to Newsweek, Harsono recommended meditating each morning. She said: "If you can get some sunlight onto your face, even better!"

"Draw upon the sun's power to awaken you, inside out. Visualize the sun's image lifting your spirit, soothing your heart, and liberating any stagnant energy held in your body.
Take a moment to feel the vital life force, the sun's energy radiating through your body, from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head, and entering your space and surroundings, bright yellow sun. Take three deep, soft breaths, inhale for six counts, hold the breath for four counts and feel the power of the bright sun within you, and exhale for eight counts."

While all of the tips above may help, if you're still feeling low for an extended period of time, consider talking to a doctor. Remember, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.

Update 11/16/22, 8:56 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to say Abdullah Boulad is the founder of The Balance rehab clinics.