SAD: Exercise and therapy, one powerful combination

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight. The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood. Still, it is thought to be related to changes in the levels of certain hormones in the body, particularly melatonin and serotonin, which are affected by the amount of natural light exposure.

SAD can be debilitating, but fortunately, many effective treatment options are available. One of the most promising of these is exercise, and studies have shown that regular exercise can be just as effective in treating SAD as light therapy or medication.

Exercise has several benefits for mental health, including releasing endorphins, chemicals that promote well-being. Exercise also helps to regulate the levels of hormones in the body, such as melatonin and serotonin, which can help to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

But Why is Exercise an Effective Treatment for SAD?

Exercise improves our physical health and helps regulate our circadian rhythm, our body’s internal 24-hour “clock” that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. During the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight, our circadian rhythm can become disrupted, leading to feelings of depression and fatigue. Regular exercise can help to reset our body clock, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Exercise also distracts from rumination, and negative thoughts help develop a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem. Regular physical activity can also increase the production of new brain cells, improving overall cognitive function.


What Type of Exercise is The Best for SAD?

Any form of exercise that you enjoy and can do regularly is beneficial. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a run, a yoga class, or a weightlifting session, finding an activity you can stick with is the most important thing. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.

Exercise can also be done outdoors, a great way to get natural sunlight and fresh air. So, if possible, exercise outside during the daytime to get the maximum benefits.

Counselling for SAD

Counselling, or psychotherapy, is another effective treatment option for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It can help individuals understand and manage their symptoms and develop coping strategies to improve their overall well-being.

One of the most common types of counselling used to treat SAD is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). This therapy focuses on helping individuals change negative thoughts and behaviours that may contribute to depression.

During CBT, a person works with a therapist to identify negative thoughts and beliefs contributing to their depression and then learns techniques to challenge and change these thoughts. They also know new ways to change their behaviour to reduce their symptoms and improve their mood.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is another type of counselling that can effectively treat SAD. IPT focuses on the person’s relationships and social interactions and aims to help individuals understand and improve their interactions with others and build a support network.

Another form of counselling that has been found effective in treating SAD and other mood disorders is Mindfulness-based therapies, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). These therapies are based on meditation and mindfulness, helping individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings and learn to accept them without judgment.

Individual counselling can be an effective treatment for SAD on its own, or it can be used in combination with other treatments such as light therapy, medication, and exercise.

It is also important to note that SAD can affect the people around you. Family therapy can help understand the condition’s impact on the whole family and provide the family with tools to support the person with SAD.

Integrative and Transpersonal Therapeutic Approaches for SAD

Integrative and transpersonal therapeutic approaches can effectively treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by addressing the disorder’s emotional, physical, spiritual, and social aspects. These approaches aim to help individuals understand the underlying causes of their SAD and develop strategies for managing their symptoms.


Integrative approaches such as holistic therapy may include a combination of conventional psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, with alternative treatments, such as mindfulness, meditation, and acupuncture. Holistic medicine can help individuals understand the connection between their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of their SAD.

Transpersonal therapy approaches focus on the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the self; it may include techniques such as guided visualization, imagery, and dream work. Transpersonal therapy can help individuals to understand the deeper meaning of their SAD and develop a sense of purpose and inner strength.

Some other alternative therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, and nature therapy, can also be beneficial in treating SAD by helping individuals to express their emotions, relax and connect with the natural world.

It is important to note that not all alternative or integrative therapies are well-researched, and some may not be supported by scientific evidence. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a qualified professional with experience in the treatment you are considering and to ensure the practitioner has the necessary training and accreditation.

It’s also important to note that, like other forms of therapy, Integrative and transpersonal therapy may not be effective for everyone, so combining treatments may be necessary to achieve the best results.

It’s always important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for SAD, which may include one or a combination of these therapy options. With the proper treatment and support, individuals with SAD can improve their mood and quality of life during the fall and winter months.

In conclusion, exercise is a powerful tool in the fight against SAD. By releasing endorphins, regulating hormones, and resetting our body clock, regular exercise can help alleviate SAD symptoms and improve overall mental health. So, if you’re struggling with SAD this winter, consider adding regular exercise to your treatment plan. It’s a simple, natural, and effective way to beat the winter blues and feel your best.

Remember, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


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