During the winter we can often feel a little down. But what exactly is seasonal affective disorder?

After the clocks go back and the days start getting noticeably shorter, some people find their mood becomes subdued. If this sounds familiar, you could be experiencing a symptom of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.

The symptoms of SAD tend to start in the autumn then become worse during December, January and February. When spring arrives, most people who are affected find their symptoms can start to improve and eventually disappear altogether. The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (www.sada.org.uk) also claims many people are affected by milder SAD symptoms, often called the ‘winter blues’.

A drop in mood isn’t the only sign of SAD. You may also be less active than normal and find you don’t have as much energy. You may have problems sleeping or feel the need to sleep a lot more than usual. Anxiety, panic attacks, stress, poor appetite, overeating, weight gain, frequent colds and loss of sex drive are all symptoms too. It’s not all doom and gloom as there are things you can do to boost your mood.

Get out and about: Whenever possible, expose yourself to lots of natural light during the autumn and winter, especially on bright sunny days and around midday.

Stay active: You may not feel much like exercising, particularly when it’s cold, but experts believe physical activity can boost your mood and make you feel more energetic.

Eat well: Try to resist any cravings you may be having for stodgy foods by making sure your diet contains heaps of healthy fruit and vegetables.

If you’ve been experiencing some or all of these symptoms during the autumn and winter months for two or three years, your GP may diagnose you as having SAD and offer you treatment.

Light up your life

SAD lights are used to compensate for the effects of a lack of light and are designed to simulate daylight. This light can influence the human body and be used as a treatment or preventative measure.

Ideal for the home or office, a SAD lamp is a convenient solution to help make the long, dark nights and gloomy days easier to navigate.