Four Natural Remedies For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight Savings Time ends on November 4th, 2018.  As we “fall back” and lose an hour of daylight, the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) rises.  Approximately ten million people in the U.S. suffer from the condition, with women being four times more likely than men to experience mood disturbances due to the low light and short days of winter.  While it’s important to remember that patients with severe SAD symptoms should consult a medical provider, there are also natural ways to alleviate symptoms of this common disorder. Here are four suggestions.  

1) Spend time outdoors earlier in the day.

Getting natural sunlight is one of the best remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Because it gets dark earlier in the late fall and winter months, it’s important to carve out time earlier in the day to spend time outdoors.  By going for a walk in the morning or spending your lunch break outside, you can significantly improve your mood.

2) Get plenty of exercise. 

Exercise is always a good idea, but it’s especially important to prioritize exercise after Daylight Savings Time ends because exercise is a natural mood-booster that combats the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It’s preferable to exercise outdoors so you can get natural sunlight in addition to the mood-boosting neurotransmitters that increase with exercise. But if you do have to exercise indoors, try to pick a cardio machine or yoga mat close to a window to get as much natural light as possible while you’re working out.

3) Follow a set sleep schedule.

One of the reasons people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder is because light affects melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep rhythms.  In order to stay happy and healthy, it’s important to follow a set sleep schedule to make sure the brain (and the body) follow consistent patterns of rest, and get adequate amounts of sleep.  

Remember that artificial light (like the blue light from smartphones and TVs) decreases melatonin and disrupts sleep, so it’s wise to avoid looking at screens for at least an hour before bedtime.

4) Load up on Vitamin D.

Contrary to its common name, Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin; it’s a hormone synthesized when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  Because people spend less time outdoors in cold weather, and cover more skin surface with protective layers, it’s common for patients to experience Vitamin D deficiency in the late fall and winter months.  In addition to spending as much time outdoors as possible, be mindful of getting plenty of Vitamin D in your diet. Good sources include fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), fortified milk, mushrooms, egg yolks and fortified tofu.  Patients who don’t get enough Vitamin D in their diet can take a daily supplement.


At Golden Gate Urgent Care, we work seven days a week to help our patients be as happy and healthy as possible!  Make an appointment online or simply walk in to any of our six Bay Area locations to get the care you need.

Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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