As the seasons change from summer into autumn, many people find that their energy levels and mood start to dip. This could be due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression that usually triggers symptoms in autumn and winter.

SAD often starts to cause changes in mood, behaviour and energy at the start of autumn, just as the days are getting shorter and there is less bright sunshine. Symptoms tend to grow worse during the height of winter when daylight hours are even fewer.

Most people find that SAD starts to disappear as they head into spring, meaning they start to feel more energised and happier when the days begin to get brighter and longer. However, it can easily come back the following autumn and winter.

Symptoms of SAD include low mood, irritability, a loss of interest in day-to-day activities, feeling lethargic, finding it hard to get up in the morning and weight gain.

Luckily, there are some ways that you can curb the symptoms of SAD to help you through the autumn and winter seasons. Here are some great tips for dealing with SAD during the darker seasons:

Exercise regularly

Not only is exercise an important part of staying healthy, it is also a great way to keep your energy levels up and fight seasonal depression. Exercise helps to release endorphins, which improve your mood and make you feel happier.

It also promotes better sleep and allows you to better maintain your weight. Ensuring you get plenty of exercise – even if it’s just walking every day – can really help you overcome SAD and ensure you stay energised.

Even if you don’t feel like exercising, make sure you get up and do something as it really will make you feel better. Get into a routine and maybe even get someone to workout with you so you can be pushed to sticking with it.

Get outside 

It’s thought that the lack of sunlight during autumn and winter is responsible for SAD as it means less serotonin – the hormone that maintains your mood, sleep and appetite – is produced.

This is why you should get as much natural sunlight as possible during these seasons, making sure you go outside as much as you can, even if the weather isn’t amazing. Getting more sunlight could help to lift your mood and generally leave you feeling better.

If you can’t get enough sunlight to make a difference, get yourself an SAD light. This mimics sunlight and helps to trigger your body to release more serotonin. Simply put your light on opposite you in the morning for at least 30 minutes and you should feel a difference in your mood.

Change your diet

When suffering from SAD, it can be tempting to eat carbohydrates and sugary foods, which can mean you put on weight. Not only is this not healthy, it can mean you’re more prone to mood crashes.

Instead, change your diet so it is full of natural energy sources that will keep you going throughout the day. Fruits provide natural sugar, avocados are full of healthy fats, while lean white meats and fish will give you lots of protein. A healthy balanced diet could really make all the difference.

It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking too much caffeine as this can also make you crash, while things like flavoured syrups will increase your sugar intake. Instead, try swapping your morning coffee for some matcha tea, which will benefit your metabolism, improve concentration and help your immune system stay strong.

Doing all of these things and sticking with them could help you lessen the effects of SAD during autumn and winter.