T’is the season to have winter blues. Thankfully, we can use meditation for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so we don’t have to feel down this holiday season.
If you’re like me, when the winter comes and the sky turns dark and the weather plummets, you might start to feel down. I’ve suffered from the winter blues ever since I was a pudgy-faced teenager. In fact, I don’t just suffer from the winter blues. I have full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition in which changes in the weather cause low moods. It is caused by a combination of lowered serotonin levels, lowered melatonin levels, and changes in circadian rhythm .
There are many different treatment options for seasonal affective disorder. They include Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs), light therapy, psychotherapy, yoga, tai chi, and meditation .
As a meditation teacher, I am, of course, predisposed to use meditation for my seasonal affective disorder. I have been using meditation for seasonal affective disorder since I was 21, and it has helped me to stay in good moods in the winter. I find that meditation helps me control my emotions.
Benefits of Meditation For Seasonal Affective Disorder & Winter Blues
One expert who advocates the use of meditation for Seasonal Affective Disorder is Norman Rosenthal (South African author, psychiatrist and scientist who first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder in the 1980s and founded the use of light therapy for SAD). 
Rosenthal states that it is imperative to find ways to reduce stress in order to combat SAD. He discovered that walking, yoga, tai chi, exercise, mindfulness and meditation are beneficial for beating the winter blues (he also suggests a diet of vegetables, lots of protein, unprocessed foods, and complex carbs).
Rosenthal states, “I have been enormously helped in managing my own SAD symptoms since regularly practising Transcendental Meditation… and other forms of meditation – such as mindfulness, which includes insight meditation (Vipassana), loving-kindness, open field meditation (such as monitoring one’s breathing), and walking meditation. “
Meditation help with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the following ways:
- Reduces the symptoms of depression
- Meditation helps maintain serotonin levels during the winter
- Reduces stress
- Enhances our ability to solve problems (problem-solving skills have been shown to be reduced in the winter)
- Helps us be less reactive to negative emotions
- Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) enhances feelings of social connection to reduce the isolation many people feel in the winter.
For me personally, meditation helps me with Seasonal Affective Disorder because it stops me from sinking into depression. It lets me keep my head “above the water”, so to speak, so that even if I do experience low moods, I am not so affected by them, and I can continue to live my life.
I also find that visualizations, such as visualizing that I am in a forest on a bright and warm day, can help me to feel more positive even if I don’t actually leave the house. This is probably because the mind cannot distinguish between that which is imagined and that which is real. So, if you imagine you are out on a hike on a sunny day, your mind will think that you actually have been on a hike on a bright day.
Yes, there are many benefits of meditation for Seasonal Affective Disorder. The exact way in which meditation helps with SAD will depend on the type of meditation you do.
Let’s take a look at the best meditations for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Best Meditations For Seasonal Affective Disorder
According to SAD expert Norman Rosenthal, the following are the best meditations for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Mindfulness: Trait Mindfulness (the quality of actual being mindful, as opposed to Trait Mindfulness, an actual meditation technique) can help to reduce the symptoms of S.A.D according to Rosenthal. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. This helps us to avoid sinking into the mind.
Vipassana: Vipassana (Insight) is a meditation in which we label mental phenomena like thoughts and feelings. The reason to use this meditation for SAD is that it makes us less reactive to negative thoughts and feelings.
Loving-kindness: Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) is an excellent way of promoting positive feelings. It is done by visualizing giving and receiving thoughts and feelings of love and kindness to and from other people. Metta increases feelings of social connection, which helps to combat the isolation of winter.
Open monitoring: Opening Monitoring is a method in which we open the mind to the entirety of our surroundings. We don’t focus on any one singular thing, but rather let the entirety of the moment come to us. This is regarded as one of the most relaxing meditations you can do.
Walking meditation (Kinhin): Kinhin, or “Walking Meditation” is essentially walking mindfully. This boosts the mind-body connection (which can be low in winter when we are less active), and gives us an opportunity to meditate outside, so we get some sunlight, serotonin, and Vitamin D.
Forest Bathing Visualization: This is my personal recommendation, rather than Rosenthals. Whenever I can’t get out for a hike, I like to imagine I’m in a forest. The mind struggles to differentiate between that which is real and that which is imagined, so visualizing that you’re in a forest can make you feel like you actually are in a forest. Read my guide to Forest Bathing Meditation.
Meditation has helped me to control my Seasonal Affective Disorder and gives me control of my emotions in the winter. I’m certain it can help you too.
Do you suffer from SAD or winter blues? Have you tried using meditation? If so, I’d love to hear from you.