Fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder with 3 Easy Steps!

By Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

Dec 04, 2020

With a chill in the air, falling leaves, and summer feeling like a distant memory, it’s the time of year when we start to think about winter. The looming colder months bring promises of frostier temperatures and shorter, darker days. While some happily look forward to skiing and other wintry activities or dream of the holiday season, others seriously struggle when daylight is scarce.

If you are one of the many who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of depression linked to fall and winter’s more limited sunlight – there is hope.

What exactly is SAD?

For sufferers of SAD, the reduction of sunlight during the fall and winter months can throw the circadian rhythm out of whack, compromising hormonal regulation and resulting in a decrease in serotonin levels and an increase in melatonin.

Individuals with SAD can grapple with feelings of depression, fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, and concentration problems. Fortunately, the symptoms generally diminish as the daylight hours increase. But if you struggle from SAD, that comes as little comfort knowing that there is a long, dark, dismal path ahead. So, what can you do right now to fight the symptoms of SAD?

SAD Light

SAD lights—also known as light therapy boxes, light boxes, and phototherapy boxes—are special lights that mimic outdoor light. When we don’t get enough sunlight because of seasonal changes, an SAD light emitting an intensity of at least 10,000 lux for 20 to 30 minutes a day early in the morning can be used as a substitute.

The light should enter the eyes, but you should not look directly at it. It’s important to make sure that the light device you use blocks UV light emission. Note that it may not be a suitable treatment for you if you are light sensitive, have bipolar disorder, or have an eye condition like glaucoma, cataracts, or eye damage from diabetes.


You may not feel up to it, but getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost serotonin levels and counter depression. Schedule in some time to get your heart rate up at least a bit and make it one of your most important bookings of your day so it doesn’t get superseded.

You might also try some fun ways to keep yourself motivated.

  • Create a movement BINGO game with squares like, “do 10 squats,” “plank for 60 seconds,” or “do 5 sun salutations (yoga).” You can make it as easy or as tough as you want, and you might even compete with friends and have a weekly prize for the winner.
  • Hold a solo dance party! Put on some fun music and dance like no one (except maybe your cat, dog, fish, or family) is watching.
  • Do a Zoom workout with a friend or family member, as it can be helpful having someone else encourage you. Use Japanese Red Reishi to Help Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Did you know that Japanese red reishi can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder? This wonder mushroom is one of the most scientifically studied supplements and has been used for thousands of years to boost health and wellbeing. Also known as Ganoderma lucidum, red reishi is a highly sought-after herb that can improve energy and vitality, helping to fight depressive disorders like SAD.

Used in TCM to “calm the spirit,” reishi is recognized in herbology as an adaptogen, and as a result it has been a cornerstone tonic for practitioners around the globe. When the “shen” – a Chinese term meaning “spirit” or our emotional and mental balance – is out of harmony, the compounds found in reishi can help bring us back into homeostasis by promoting calming and grounding effects.

If you struggle from SAD, there is no reason to have to suffer for several months every year. This may even be the year you enjoy fall and winter!

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


  • Aslam, Muhammad & Nasir, Ali. (2017) “Antidepressent-Like Activity of Ethanol Extract of Ganoderma,” International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences, 6(5), pp.55-58.

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