Combat Feeling SAD During Winter

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Winter can be brutal. Short days and long nights in the Northern Hemisphere make for decreased exposure to sunlight. Absorbing fewer rays from the sun has a negative physiological effect on most people, which can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). As the acronym implies, this results in a feeling of sadness triggered by wintertime conditions.

Equestrians are at risk for experiencing varying degrees of SAD because they are accustomed to being outside much of the time. Short, cold days and frozen ground sharply reduces riding and outdoor time, which can trigger feelings of depression.


  • Decreased appetite
  • Lack of interest in things you normally enjoy (feeding, brushing, riding horses)
  • Unusual tiredness (a reluctance to get out of bed, or a desire to sleep more than usual)
  • Sighing a lot
  • Weight gain
  •  Inability to sleep
  • Withdrawing from people you love

Affected people may experience some or all of these symptoms. In severe cases, a person might be unable to go to work or perform usual duties, such as childcare, cooking, and household cleaning. Personal relationships may be damaged.


Here are a few ways to combat SAD before it takes a negative hold on your mental state:

  • Get some sunlight every day. Even sitting outside for 10 minutes during a break can help alleviate symptoms of SAD. Sunboxes, or special lights designed to mimic the sun’s rays, can be used indoors to reap the same results in about 20 minutes a day.

  • Exercise. Working out releases endorphins, which are activated when we move our bodies enough to raise our heart rate and sweat a bit. Endorphins make us feel happy.

  • Maintain a routine. It’s easy to slip into a different, self-destructive routine during the winter months. Use an alarm if necessary to keep getting up at your normal time, which will in turn help maintain your normal bedtime and standard sleep hours.

  • Find a hobby or activity that is best done during the winter. Quilting, playing cards, reading, indoor basketball, leather work, or crafting are all hobbies that can be viewed as small luxuries best enjoyed during the cold months, when the sun isn’t luring us outside to ride our horses at all waking hours.


About half of those in the northern US and southern Canada are afflicted by the disorder each year. Only about 1% of Florida residents feel down during the winter, emphasizing the direct connection between seasonal patterns and the disorder. Feeling SAD isn’t your fault, and there are things you can do to feel happy again, even during the winter. If attempts to cheer up using at-home remedies don’t significantly raise your spirits, go to a doctor and ask for help. Primary care physicians see patients suffering from SAD on a regular basis, and often a simple, low-dose prescription of a basic antidepressant is all that’s needed to get a person safely through winter in a healthy state of mind. When the symptoms are truly caused by seasonal changes, there is often no need to see a psychiatrist and undergo talk therapy sessions. Many patients stop using their prescription during the warm months with no ill effects. This cycle of only medicating during the months when needed is perfectly safe, normal, and healthy.

Posted in: Featured, Uncategorized

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Fallon, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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