Seasonal Depression

The “winter blues” also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of depression that occurs the same time every year. In Wisconsin, this tends to happen to individuals during the winter months. However, seasonal depression can occur in summer or spring months, but it is less common.

What causes seasonal depression? During the fall/winter months the amount of sunlight is reduced and can affect an individual’s serotonin (can affect one’s mood). The low amounts serotonin has shown to be linked to depression. Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, has been linked to seasonal depression as well. This hormone can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Since the days during winter are shorter and darker, the production of melatonin increases.

How can you prevent seasonal depression? Some forms of prevention that can help include beginning light therapy in the early fall before the onset of symptoms, exercising more, increasing the amount of light at home, increase eating foods with melatonin and serotonin (see below), meditation and other stress management techniques, find hobbies that make you happy, bundle up and spend time outside, and (if possible) visit a warm sunny climate during Wisconsin’s winter months.

Foods with Melatonin:

  • Fruits and vegetables (cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranates, olives, grapes, broccoli, and cucumbers)
  • Gains (rice, barley, rolled oats)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, and flaxseed)

Foods with Serotonin:

  • Fruits and vegetables (pineapples, bananas, kiwi, plums, tomatoes, avocadoes, and spinach)
  • Eggs and cheese
  • Salmon, Turkey, Tofu, Nuts and Seeds

Did you know – Seasonal Depression Facts:

  1. Four out five people who have seasonal depression are women
  2. The further one is away from the equator, the more at risk they are for seasonal depression.
  3. Every year, about 5 percent of the U.S.A population experiences seasonal depression.

*Information taken from: