Shining a Light On Seasonal Affective Disorder

From Guest Blogger Julie Reed, LPC, NCC, CCTP (c)2021

Did you know that those of us who live in the Cleveland area only get about 163 days of sunshine per
year-and 97 of those days are only partially sunny? Although this can make a lot of us feel a little blue
from time to time, there is a more serious condition that can be caused by these gloomy days. It is
called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D.

Contrary to what some believe, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real condition. Around 500,000
Americans suffer from this form of depression, but the good news is that can be effectively treated.
Symptoms of S.A.D. include: Moodiness, low energy, irritability, a heavy sensation in the arms and
legs, weight gain, craving carbs and sleeping too much.

S.A.D. typically starts as the days begin to get shorter in the fall and can last throughout the winter. An indicator that one might be suffering from S.A.D. is that their symptoms begin and end around the same time each year. Seeking the help of a health professional might be necessary to determine a precise diagnosis.


Determining the exact cause of S.A.D. is difficult, but doctors believe that lack of sunlight is a major contributor. Lack of sunlight can disrupt our melatonin levels-which is the substance that regulates our sleep patterns. A sunlight deficit can also cause our serotonin level to drop. Serotonin is a chemical in the body that, among many other things such as helping with sleep and digestion, also supports mood regulation.


Aside from moving to a tropical climate, we have reasonable options:

  • Open your blinds or curtains and sit close to a bright window, when you cannot be outside. If you
    are able to get out and take a walk in the sunlight, all the better. Studies show that taking a walk within
    the first two hours of getting up is a great way to get fresh air and sunlight, even if it is a little cloudy.
  • Stay busy and stay connected. Talk with friends and family on a regular basis. Find things to do such
    as taking up a new hobby, join a Bible study, reading, art, an online class or workshop or anything that engages your brain and brings you joy and fulfillment.
  • Join a support group. Grace Alliance Mental Health offers resiliency groups at churches. Many groups can help you stay connected to others and get the support you need.
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about light therapy. Light therapy can be greatly beneficial in
    managing symptoms, when used correctly.
  • Do your best to keep a routine. Going to bed, waking, and eating at regular times will help manage
    some SAD symptoms and help you plan regular times when you can get sunlight or use light therapy.
  • Eat wisely and eat fresh! Our bodies can crave carbs more so than not if we suffer from SAD. Instead,
    try to focus on eating brightly colored veggies and fruit, every day and eat healthy proteins that are
  • Exercise! If you are able, do cardio exercise at least 3 times per week for at least 30 minutes at a time. This will raise the level of serotonin and other “feel-good” hormones that our body naturally produces and will have long-lasting positive effects on our mood-even on the days you don’t exercise.
  • Avoid alcohol. Although some people like to unwind with an alcoholic drink, alcohol is a depressant and may worsen symptoms.
  • Seek out a mental health counselor. Having one on one support and connecting with a caring counselor can help deal with symptoms and lift our mood.

Although we all have days where we feel down and blue due to the gloomy skies, S.A.D. is a persistent
disorder that typically lasts for months and needs to be addressed and treated. I encourage you to
reach out for help if you are experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned.

Julie Reed, LPC, NCC, CCTP
Reed Counseling
Bay Village, Ohio 44140

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Samuel 22:31
God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

Nancy’s latest FREE e-books! Click on the pictures for immediate access:

How the Difference Maker Lifts You Above Depressive Thoughts (c)2020

Stay at Home and Thrive! (c)2020

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.

NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!


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