I just returned from a 2 week Florida stint and, yes, you guys guessed right, it was all sun 🌞 and fun. In Nigeria and other warm climes, it’s no big deal but it’s certainly a big deal for those escaping the cold weather for a bit.

I returned to work and noticed a trend in my clients – as the weather got even chillier, the moods are also getting cold! I remembered how the weather affects our moods and minds, starting from the fabric colours which are dimmed in autumn and dulled in winter and almost barely reduced to just covering up and keeping warm as against the bright colours of summer which gives the spark and lifts the spirit.

Yes, these must affect the mind somewhat, the glowing of the sun with longer and brighter days must make for brighter moods as opposed to the dull and dark days where it’s nigh black from 4pm — the mind must also be ready to go dark with the dark or be as grey as the clouds .. and oh, yes, Vitamin D gotten from exposure in the sun improves our overall wellbeing and mental state and this vitamin absorption is diminished when the sun is off duty in autumn and winter so all the ingredients are well set to induce in the susceptible what is known as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD occurs in warm climes too and the basis might be a little varied but the explanation is still very much around seasons.  In the tropics and other warm climates, it is characterised by depression that occurs at the same time every year, especially during the rainy period.

So have I come with doom and gloom now that the weather has changed? No, but to share a little insight about this important mental health issue and help understand why SAD occurs, be mindful as it creeps in, recognise it, seek help and be able to do things that will prevent or minimise its impact on daily living.

Health Talk with Adeola - SAD

So, what is seasonal affective disorder otherwise called winter blues?

SAD (Seasonal affective disorder)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” and “rainy depression’’ because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter in the cold climes and during the rainy season in the warm climes.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to those of regular depression, but they occur repetitively at a particular time of the year.  They usually start in the autumn or winter and improve in the spring. (However, some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter).

The nature and severity of SAD vary from person to person. For some, it may be mild while for others it can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.

Symptoms of SAD can include

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic( lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving food and gaining weight
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive

What causes SAD

The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days or in the tropics during the rainy seasons.

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might cause a part of the brain called the hypothalamus to stop working properly, which may cause an imbalance in:

  • the hormone that regulates sleep (melatonin) causing you to sleep more.
  • the hormone that affects your mood causing mood swings and low mood.
  • the body’s internal clock ( Circadian rhythm) causing its disruption.

Health Talk with Adeola - SAD

Treatments for SAD

A range of treatments are available for SAD.  Your Doctor will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you.

The main treatment options are:

  • lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels
  • light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight
  • talking therapies – with specialist therapists to help you understand how your thoughts and interactions can be modified to help you improve (lots are available to self-refer confidentially and offered free by charities).
  • Antidepressant medicines – to help balance and improve your mood

Things you can try yourself

There are a number of things you can do to help improve your symptoms:

  • try to get as much natural sunlight as possible-even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial
  • make your home and work environment as lit and airy as possible
  • sit near windows when indoors
  • take plenty of regular exercise particularly outdoors and in daylight and eat a healthy balanced diet
  • avoid stress where possible and where not possible take proactive steps to manage stress

It can also be helpful to talk to your family and friends about SAD, so they understand how your mood changes during the winter. This can help them to support you more effectively.

Now, talking about managing our stress levels (I should preach to self!)

10 stress busters

  • First, identify the cause: gives you a fair chance of tackling the issues
  • Take control and try to do something about it; it is empowering and removes the feeling of helplessness
  • Seek a good social network- connect with people, it helps to see things from a different perspective
  • Have some “me time”- take time to relax and do what you enjoy
  • Challenge yourself- setting yourself goals helps builds self-confidence
  • Avoid unhealthy habits; they mask problems short term but create new ones long term.
  • Help others; it improves your resilience
  • Work smarter, not harder; concentrate on tasks that make a difference and accept that you can’t do everything.
  • Be Positive: look for the positives in life and for things you are grateful
  • Accept things you can’t change; focus on what you can control

Mental health crisis helplines: If you’re in crisis and need to talk right now, there are many helplines staffed by trained people ready to listen. They won’t judge you, and could help you make sense of what you’re feeling. 

                 OUTSIDE THE UK/ WORLDWIDE

If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.

       Remember, shout out for help, mental health matters!


Dr Adeola.

Credits: “Friendspiration”– a big thank you to all my friends that share their experiences with me, honour me with their trust and allow me the privilege of their insight and wisdom.

References; Nhs Uk, Mind, Google searches on SAD in Nigeria and other hot climates worldwide.

Also from Dr Adeola;

Health Talk with Adeola – Forty Plus Gang HEALTH TALK WITH ADEOLA – Ovulation Pain


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