Feeling down? It could be SAD

ByMarguerite Jill Dye

Since the leaves fell and gray skies appeared, bringing rain and more often now, snow, I realized I was feeling blue, unlike myself, with little joy. The hour changed, bringing darkness sooner, which didn’t improve my point of view. Had cabin fever already taken over, or “winter blues” in early November? I felt a chill and curled up to hibernate on my couch. Then I recalled my doctor once said, “You might be affected by SAD. The lack of bright light and sunshine can cause seasonal affective disorder.” He recommended I change my studio bulbs from fluorescent to full spectrum, because bright light therapy treats SAD by elevating the person’s mood.

Ten million Americans suffer from SAD, and 10-20 percent are estimated to have a milder version of the disorder, according to Psychology Today magazine. Women are four times more apt to suffer from SAD than men are, and it usually begins in women between ages 18 and 30. It recurs in the fall and winter months and tends to end in early spring as daylight hours increase. The colors we see are enhanced by bright natural light. What I’ve come to understand is that light elicits happiness.

Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it is recognized that melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, increases with darkness and causes us to experience sleepiness and lethargy. Another possible cause is that the body produces less vitamin D during fall and winter when we’re exposed to less sun, especially in areas of far north and far south of the Equator. Vitamin D is linked to serotonin in the brain which is an important neurotransmitter that affects mood, so a shortage of vitamin D is linked to depression.

Some symptoms may include a sense of sadness and hopelessness, oversleeping, food cravings (carbs and sweets), overeating, weight gain, fatigue and possibly thoughts of suicide.

SAD treatment usually begins with vitamin D and broadband light therapy for 30-60 minutes per day (during the low light season) in the form of a light box or light visor (worn like a hat). It activates the brain’s “circadian pacemaker” and regulates sleep cycles. Improving sleep also helps depression since there’s a strong correlation ( If depression persists, it’s important to seek help.

Recommendations for self-care are to indulge in “me time” doing things you love, spend time in sunlight and outdoors whenever possible, plan enjoyable activities with friends and a trip if you can, keep track of your energy level and mood, let daylight into your home by opening curtains and shades, and try to embrace the winter with a positive attitude.

Feng shui cures for the winter blues from Carol Olmstead include:

Light up your life! Turn on a variety of lights in your home. Change to full-spectrum lights simulating daylight and replace CFL (corkscrew) bulbs due to their harsh glare.

Fire things up with oranges and reds to increase yang energy in your home. Avoid blue, gray, or black surroundings of dark and draining yin energy.

Burn fires often in your fireplace or stove, or light candles to create a warm, comforting glow.

Raise up your spirits and promote growth with tall plants, flowers, lamps, and fabrics (rather than using horizontal designs that represent the status quo).

As always, in feng shui, clear out the clutter! It clarifies your life and helps you move forward.

Spice up your meals with the fire element and eat hot food, not cold, like comforting stews, served on fire-colored dishes (

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

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