Understanding the Winter Blues & SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Understanding the Winter Blues & SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Now that the days are getting shorter and the sunlight seems to be a rare commodity, you may hear people say they are more tired than usual and their mood seems to mimic the gloomy weather. You may hear terms such as “the winter blues,” “seasonal depression” or “seasonal affective disorder (commonly known as SAD),” but are they interchangeable terms? What is the difference and is there something we can do to remedy this occurrence? Based on the fact that so many of our friends and family members struggle in these winter months, we’re here to not only explain these terms, but to normalize them! We will also show you how supporting the endocannabinoid system with CBD can potentially provide you with a lot of relief.

The Common Thread & the Difference 

First, it is important to know that although there is a common thread between the winter blues and SAD, there is also a difference.  

The winter blues are quite common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the darker and colder days of winter.  Hunkering down with a warm cup of tea or hot cocoa to watch The Notebook for the seventh time usually sounds like a good idea. Cozying up and feeling a bit lethargic is normal, and the winter blues do not typically hinder your overall ability to enjoy life.

Now, if your winter blues continue on day after day and begin to penetrate all aspects of life ranging from personal relationships to work life, you may be facing SAD, which is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change of seasons. This typically begins in the fall and lingers through the winter months.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is, “recurring major depression with a seasonal pattern.” SAD is no longer considered a discrete diagnostic entity, but is actually considered to be its own type of depression by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. [1] SAD can be debilitating for some and it is very important to recognize the symptoms.

Common Symptoms & Indicators

Common indicators and symptoms can include:

  • Sleeping too much
  • Overeating
  • Mood that is down nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • Withdrawing and isolation
  • Struggling to focus
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts

If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, it is important for you to contact your healthcare provider.  It is also important to know there are a number of evidence-based treatments that can be quite effective whether you are suffering from the winter blues or SAD.

Some of our favorite proven remedies include:

  • Sunlight: Try to take advantage of any opportunity you can to go outdoors when the sun is shining.
  • Light Therapy: These special lights mimic outdoor summer light with a higher intensity than indoor lighting. As a result, the light creates biochemical changes in the brain that improve mood and relieve symptoms of both winter blues and SAD.
  • Exercise: Evidence supports a connection between exercise and mental health, particularly for those who suffer from anxiety and depression.
  • Embracing a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a regular schedule, eating healthy and not overindulging in alcohol.
  • Nutrition: Do your best to make sure you are getting all of your nutrients from whole-food sources and supplement where needed.
  • Supplements:
    • Taking a quality Vitamin D supplement (check with your provider to see how much you need). Experts recommend the form of vitamin D3 taken in conjunction with vitamin K2.
    • Consistent CBD regimen. 

Supplementing with CBD

As we have mentioned in a previous blog discussing the benefits of CBD, we said the endocannabinoid system is responsible for many things, including mood regulation. When our endocannabinoid system is not working optimally, we can feel this even more intensely when we are not taking care of ourselves in many of the ways listed above. Staying consistent with your CBD is a great way to ensure your endocannabinoid system is in check, which can help alleviate many of the depressing symptoms we may experience in the winter months. Full spectrum hemp extract like the one listed here is a natural source of Vitamin D, along with countless other vitamins and minerals that can help you stay healthy. Consistency with CBD also promotes natural energy, which can help us get out of our rut!

Aside from less sun and cold weather, the winter months can bring with them a lot of stress that comes along with the holidays. Please remember to try and stay connected to your loved ones and take time out for yourself when you need it! 

If you’d like more support regarding the upcoming winter months, including tips on how to prevent the winter blues, boost your health, manage stress this holiday season, and more, please consider joining the Happy Trails Winter Wellness Event on December 6th from 6-7:30pm at 3416 W. College Avenue, Appleton, WI or join us at our Shawano, WI location on Sunday, December 15th from 3-4:30pm. Enjoy CBD samples and refreshments, plus a goody bag to take home. Information can be found on our Facebook page


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.


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