Seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D) is a form of depression that’s related to the change of season from summer to winter, and which affects people through the winter months – The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

Although the exact cause of S.A.D is unknown, it’s thought that it is due to a decline in the hours of sunlight we’re exposed to. Our body-clocks can get out of sync as a result of lack of sunshine, and we can suffer some depression-like symptoms that coincide with the winter months. Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • A depressive state of being but not knowing why
  • Feeling like you’re irritable and or finding it hard to concentrate
  • Appetite suppression or an unexplained increase in appetite
  • Tiredness, listlessness and low energy
  • Interrupted sleep cycles
  • Feeling less sociable
  • In extreme cases, you could even be weighed down with dark thoughts
    In this instance – reach out to your general practitioner immediately, especially if you are concerned with your own safety or with the safety of others as a result.

If you’ve been suffering these symptoms since the days started getting shorter, then you could possibly be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), although an official diagnosis is hard to obtain even from a GP.

If you are feeling depressed, it’s always worth talking to your GP anyway as they can help you even if the cause is hard to determine. You can also take an online test for depression courtesy of the Ministry of Health, which might help you come up with the right words to explain to your GP how you feel.

There are some recognised methods for helping cure milder symptoms of S.A.D.

  • Light Therapy – You can buy lamps designed to assist S.A.D from most big electronic retailers or online. They are supposed to work by giving your body clock an anchor for starting each day. Waking up to bright light or a light that increases in brightness, mimicking sunrise, aims to help your body clock regulate itself and make you feel more awake and happier.
  • Counselling – As with any form of depression, talking about it can help. Don’t be afraid to contact your doctor, a helpline or even confide in a friend or family member you trust. A list of helpful websites and hotlines are at the foot of this segment, be sure to check them out.
  • Practice self-care – you might have heard this term bouncing around for a while now, but self-care can play a huge part in how you feel. We recently did a guide to 10 steps for Winter Wellness that you can refresh yourself on here.
  • Vitamin D supplements – Supplements can help, or you can simply eat foods rich in Vitamin D such as fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Some foods are also fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.

Useful websites & hotlines:


Or if you need to talk to someone:

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999 or Free text 4357 (HELP)

0800 376 633

0800 726 666


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