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Seasonal affective disorder: 8 science-backed therapies to try

Winter is coming, and so are the blues.

Originally Published: 
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You can feel it in the air — literally.

That crisp fall chill signalling the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

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As winter creeps in, so does darkness.

Daylight savings time ends on November 7 in 2021, and soon the sun will set as early as 3:43 PM in the mainland U.S.



Less sunlight and plummeting temperatures can be enough to make anyone feel gloomy.

But if you’re consistently lethargic or sad during the changing seasons, it might be more than just winter blues.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects people when the seasons change.


Winter isn’t the only time people struggle with this — it can affect some during the spring and summer too.

Luckily, there are some science-backed strategies that you can pursue to beat back the winter blues from the comfort of your home.


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Here are 8 science-backed ways to tackle winter blues:

8. Vitamin D supplements

It’s estimated that over a billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, which we primarily get from sun exposure.

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Winter darkness makes it harder to keep up healthy levels of this essential nutrient.

Supplements can be helpful if you are low in vitamin D or have a deficiency, which can be determined by a routine blood test.

7. Light boxes

Happy lamps mimic the sunlight you’re missing in the winter, and are often combined with other types of therapy to treat SAD.


They don’t cause the body to produce more vitamin D, but they can help regulate your body’s production of melatonin and serotonin.

6. Talk therapy

Whether via an app, video chat, or in person, having a professional to discuss what you’re struggling with can be a game-changer.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the major treatments for depression and SAD — and science shows it’s more effective than just buying a happy lamp and calling it a day.

5. Staying hydrated

A simple as it sounds, making sure you drink enough water during the day can ease tiredness and other symptoms.

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Try setting a timer on your phone or downloading a reminder app to give yourself a nudge if you’re prone to forgetting to drink during the day.

4. Sleep

Like hydration, sleep helps regulate the body’s functions and may make it easier to cope with winter blues.



That being said, sometimes SAD can throw off your sleep schedule — so you might want to try other at-home methods of treatment first.

3. Dawn simulators

Typically built into an alarm clock, these devices mimic the gradual rise of the sun to wake you up in the morning.


Though they have similar effects on decreasing depression as light box therapy, one study found that people actually perceive light boxes to be more effective.

2. Aromatherapy

Though researchers aren’t entirely sure why aromatherapy can help, it’s at times suggested as a supplemental treatment for depression.



Aromatherapy and other types of mind-body awareness practices like meditation can help manage your attitude toward daily life.

Just don’t rely on essential oils alone to wipe out your winter blues.

1. Sticking to a schedule

Keeping your days consistent can ensure that you’re getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising, and engaging in therapy on a regular basis.

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It’s not easy to pull yourself out of a winter slog, but working at it little by little every day is the best way to push through to spring’s big thaw.

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