If you’re like me, when the winter comes and the sky turns dark and the weather plummets, you 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 SAD. And I know all too well how bad it feels when your serotonin and melatonin levels drop .
Maybe you’ve tried some of the popular treatment options like Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs), light therapy, psychotherapy, and exercise. But for me, meditation was the best solution. . And I’ve had similar success helping other people with SAD in my meditation lessons.
You’ll find that meditation helps you to keep your energy and to control your emotions. So, let me show you how to do it.
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Meditation For Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Sit comfortably with good posture. Make sure your spine is straight but relaxed.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a minimum of 28 mindful breaths to relax. Simply observe your breath moving around your body.
- Now bring to mind the perfect day in the ideal type of weather you would like to be in. For most people this will be a warm and hot day. Note that science shows that when we visualize spending time in nature and in ideal weather, we get many of the benefits we would get if we actually were outside in nice weather. Truly visualize your scene.
- Where are you in the scene? Describe it to yourself. What do you hear, see, smell..? Visualize these details.
- Continue visualizing your perfect scene, in the ideal weather, for fifteen minutes.
According to SAD expert Norman Rosenthal, the following are the best meditations for SAD.
Trait Mindfulness (the quality of being mindful in your everyday life) 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 (Insight) is a technique 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 (Metta) is an excellent way of promoting positive feelings. When we do this, we visualize 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.
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. Instead, we 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 “Zen Walking”, is essentially walking mindfully. This boosts the mind-body connection (which can be low in winter when we are less active). Plus, it gives us an opportunity to meditate outside, so we get some sunlight, serotonin, and Vitamin D.
Forest Bathing Visualization:
This is my personal recommendation. 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. Therefore, 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.
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 SAD in the 1980s and founded the use of light therapy for SAD). 
Rosenthal states that it is imperative to find ways to reduce stress 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 techniques – such as mindfulness, which includes insight meditation (Vipassana), loving-kindness, open field meditation (such as monitoring one’s breathing), and mindful walking. “
Meditation helps with Seasonal Mood Disorder in the following ways:
- Reduces the symptoms of depression [Read: Meditation for Depression]
- 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 winter depression 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.
And for all those reasons, I believe meditation is a great treatment for SAD.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison