Woman wearing coat, scarf and gloves.

Why does winter affect my mood?

Here’s why you don’t always feel on top form when it’s cold, dark and wintery.

Sometimes winter just feels like a bit of a slog. As the nights draw in we start to change our day to day routines, we can seem low and getting into bed or hibernation can often feel like the only thing for it.

There are reasons why you feel like you’ve got a full-blown dose of the winter blues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD happens when the seasons change, most notably as we go from autumn into winter. It is considered a sub-type of depression, which basically means that its symptoms are very close. The main difference is that these symptoms are limited to a similar time each year over a period of years.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling depressed and low for most of the day
  • Lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling sluggish, tired or like you’ve got no energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in weight

What causes SAD?

The exact causes of SAD haven’t been scientifically confirmed, but there are many factors that are widely thought to have an impact. The biggest being lack of vitamin D. In winter the sun’s rays simply aren’t powerful enough to give us the Vitamin D our bodies need.

It is thought that Vitamin D levels can affect parts of the brain that govern learning, memory and mood. Some research suggests it could even play a role in social behaviour. In winter, low levels of the vitamin can have the following affects:

  • An impact on your internal body clock, which can lead to feelings similar to depression
  • A drop in levels of serotonin (often called the “happiness hormone”) which can also bring on feelings of depression
  • Disruption of your melatonin levels, hampering the quality of your sleep and mood

Your body can crave certain foods

When it’s dark, cold and wet, the drop in serotonin levels, caused by the lack of sunlight, can cause your body to crave heavy white carbs. When you eat these foods, you’ll get an instant serotonin boost and mood enhancer, but this will soon drop again bringing on the winter blues and a lack of energy. Starchy seasonal veg packed full of complex carbs is the way to go.

The cold can make you lethargic

Getting up in winter often makes your motivation levels to head to the gym hit an all-time low. The cold temperatures have a physical impact on your muscle strength, blood flow and even balance. Wrapping up and then warming up with some yoga or simple stretches will make a world of difference to your morning.

You’re not getting any natural light


If you arrive to and leave work in the dark, you’re likely not getting enough natural light in winter. Loads of offices still rely on artificial lighting, so it’s even more important to make sure you get away from your desk and spend some time outside on your lunch hour. Also speak to your superiors to see if they can improve the lighting situation.

Your winter blues are perfectly normal. Now that you’re familiar with the effects of winter on your mood, check out our mood boosting article.

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