Seasonal Affective Disorder Advice

With the clocks going back an hour on Sunday 29 October, the Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to eat healthily and exercise regularly to ward off the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Every year, 1 in 50 people in the UK suffers from SAD, although many do not realise it.

SAD is a form of depression normally experienced between October and April and symptoms include fatigue, feeling depressed and weepy, social withdrawal, anxiety, overeating and weight gain, loss of libido, poor motivation and lack of concentration.

But according to the Mental Health Foundation, research shows that a healthy diet and regular exercise can help a person to alleviate the symptoms associated with SAD. Foods such as oily fish, brown rice, leafy green vegetables, beans, pulses and white meat contain nutrients that can protect against feelings of depression.

A regular programme of exercise lifts mood, reduces anxiety and improves concentration. Exercise releases endorphins in the body, which help combat depression and can make you feel happier. Try to find an activity that you enjoy, whether it be walking, dance classes, yoga or a team sport.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:

“Many people can feel depressed as winter approaches, with days getting shorter and mornings becoming darker. We also tend to become less active and eat more comfort food at this time of year, but a healthy lifestyle can help. Good nutrition and exercise are just two ways that people can help to protect themselves against seasonal depression.”

Light therapy can also help people with SAD and is effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases. This involves sitting in front of a special ‘light box’ allowing the light to reach your eyes. Severe cases of SAD may be treated with anti-depressants.

The Mental Health Foundation’s self-help tips:

  • Try to eat a healthy and balanced diet. A full list of foods that help alleviate the symptoms of depression can be found at
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy and stick with it!
  • Keep up your light quota. Why not wrap up warm and get outdoors for a lunchtime stroll?
  • Don’t ask too much of yourself – listen to what your mind and body needs – and leave major projects until the spring.
  • If you drink alcohol keep to the recommended limits, as booze is a depressant.

For a factsheet on SAD, visit

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was last reviewed or updated by on .

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