How to Treat Seasonal Depression?

Understanding Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression involves feeling sad or blue to the extent that it impedes daily functioning and causes distress for both an individual and his or her loved ones.

Symptoms of depression can include;

feeling sad or hopeless

having feelings of guilt or worthlessness

being irritable

showing no interest in former activities

experiencing fatigue and difficulty concentrating

and having issues with sleeping and eating

Individuals with depression may also struggle with suicidal thoughts or attempts, according to the NIMH.


Causes of Depression

The NIMH has reported that depression is a brain disease, which can likely be attributed to a combination of;




and psychological characteristics

Genetics may play a key role in the development of depression.

A study published in 2010 in the journal PLoS ONE found that the duplication of a certain gene was associated with depression.(1)

A second study, published the same year in Biological Psychiatry, found that variations of a specific gene were associated with depression, because they resulted in dysregulation in cognition and motivation.(2)

A study of African-American and European-American women was conducted for a 2014 edition of Twin Research and Human Genetics.(3)

Study results indicated that depression was 43 percent attributable to genetic variations and 57 percent attributable to environmental factors.

A study published in 2002 in Psychological Medicine found an even greater relationship between genetics and depression.(4)

Results showed that there was a 71 percent correlation between genetics and depression on somatic and affective scales.


Treating Depression

Those who suffer from depression can find relief from their symptoms.

Perhaps the most common way to treat depression is with anti-depressant medications, such as Prozac or Cymbalta.

Family physicians and psychiatrists can prescribe these medications.

Those who suffer from depression can also alleviate their symptoms by seeking counseling services from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be especially effective in the treatment of depression; researchers for a 2014 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders found that six months of cognitive behavioral therapy resulted in remission for 75 percent of patients in their study.(5)

Patients with depression can also treat their symptoms with natural remedies.

For instance, exercise may be a helpful tool in the treatment of depression, as a 2012 study in Acta Kinesiologica found that women who engaged in aerobic exercise twice weekly for ten weeks had lower levels of depression.(6)

Diet can also reduce symptoms of depression.

A 2009 study in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that those with a higher magnesium intake scored lower on a depression scale.(7)

Furthermore, a review included in a 2013 edition of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that the consumption of folate, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans reduced the risk of depression.(8)


So, What is Seasonal Depression?

As the days grow colder and winter sets in, you or a loved one may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as seasonal depression.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), seasonal affective disorder involves recurring depression during the late fall and winter, with a return to normal or high moods during the remainder of the year.

Symptoms of this disorder include;

excessive sleeping


weight gain

decreased libido



social isolation

thoughts of suicide

and disinterest in normal activities

If you or someone you know is suffering from seasonal depression, it is important to know about available treatment options.

Here are 4 proven ways to effectively treat seasonal depression.


Treating Seasonal Depression with Exercise

Physical exercise may be an effective treatment option for individuals suffering from seasonal depression.

In a 2000 study published in Psychiatry Research, a majority of patients with seasonal depression experienced a decrease in depression after completing a week of physical exercise.(9)

A study published in 2002 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that a combination of exercise and bright light relieved depression.(10)

Take advantage of this affect by going for a 20-minute walk during your lunch break.

The combination of the afternoon sun and a burst of physical activity may be just what you need to improve your mood.


Magnesium Supplementation for Depression Relief

Magnesium may be an antidote for the fatigue associated with seasonal depression.

A 2008 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine found that magnesium supplementation effectively treated fatigue in 82 percent of patients with symptoms of seasonal fatigue.(11)

Furthermore, a 2013 review in Nutritional Neuroscience analyzed the results of 27 different studies and found that magnesium was linked with lower depression levels.(12)

You can add magnesium to your diet by consuming more;


brown rice


and bananas

Bright Light Treatment for Seasonal Depression

Therapy with bright light has also been found to be effective in the treatment of seasonal depression.

A 2014 study in BMC Psychiatry found that four weeks of a 12-minute daily dose of bright light administered via ear canals significantly reduced depression scores among patients with seasonal depression.(13)

In 2009, a study in Depression and Anxiety found that 60 percent of patients with seasonal depression responded to a blue light therapy.(14)


Medication for Seasonal Depression

Medication can also be effective for the treatment of seasonal depression.

A 2004 study in Psychopharmacology found that the antidepressant Sertraline was more effective than a placebo in the treatment of seasonal depression.(15)

A second study, published in 2012 in Depression Research & Treatment, found that the antidepressant Fluoxetine was a more cost-effective treatment option than light therapy for seasonal depression.(16)



If you have been unable to treat your seasonal depression on your own, you may want to consult your doctor to determine if medication is a viable option for you.

Otherwise, simple methods such as exercise, dietary changes, and exposing yourself to sunlight may improve your mood this winter.