Turn Sad Into Glad!

Say goodbye to winter blues

by Doris Helge, Ph.D., 2012


Do you know anyone who fatigues more easily during the winter months? Is it ever more difficult to stay motivated or reach your peak performance during the season of short daylight? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very common, particularly in climates with frequent gray skies or short winter days. Even people in sunny Florida are sometimes affected by the winter blues syndrome.

SAD is associated with changes in environmental light, overcast days and inadequate indoor lighting. SAD is not only related to blue moods. SAD can create health problems because common symptoms include daytime fatigue, sugar binges, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, lethargy, hopelessness, lack of interest in normal activities, and social withdrawal. Most SAD sufferers hate to get out of bed in the morning because they don’t feel rested.


It’s easy to see how the vibrations of SAD can rob your work environment of glad vibes. Seasonal affective disorder destroys our focus and peak performance. Whether you work at home or in an office, you can easily and inexpensively correct SAD.

Light therapy has long been considered the ideal treatment for SAD. Full-spectrum bulbs and bulbs with color temperatures between 3000 and 6500 degrees can blast the winter blahs the way a gust of wintry wind whisks a feather far away. Some studies have indicated up to 86% of people affected by winter SAD completely overcame their symptoms when special light bulbs were consistently used.

Ordinary fluorescent lights, on the other hand, receive a mixed review. Some people report that fluorescents assist with SAD, but ultraviolet light can also harm your eyes and skin. Fluorescents can also rob your body of B vitamins, which are so essential to your happiness that many health practitioners prescribe a B vitamin complex for people experiencing depression.


This is an excerpt from one of the case studies I conducted before I wrote the book, “Joy on the Job.” The setting was a nonprofit agency headquartered in western Washington State, an area known for short winter days. The skies in this damp, cold climate are overcast for months at a time. Personnel who were affected by SAD talked openly, “I feel so lethargic,” “My mood sucks,” “I have no energy,” and “I hate the winter blahs.” Tardiness and absenteeism increased as the dreary winter drug on, day by day, week by week, month after month. The usually effective ways to lighten up and have fun at work were floundering because almost everyone’s energy was lower than normal.

After installing full-spectrum bulbs in the work area, we noted an immediate decrease in fatigue and irritability. The cost was tiny compared to the boost in morale that everyone enjoyed. Teamwork soared because people were happier during their work hours. Because of the way the human brain works, employees began to associate “work” with “happiness at work.” Workers described their new mood as “calm alertness,” the same mind state that allows air traffic controllers to conduct complicated tasks in a relaxed, focused manner. I’ve read research saying that, unless there is a crisis in the airways, the average air traffic controller is quite relaxed and capable at the same time.

Because of the pleasant calm-alert state created by the full-spectrum bulbs we installed, employees involved in the case study stopped over-sleeping. They arrived at work on time and with elevated enthusiasm. Of course, health care costs also quickly declined. Other organizations in the area wanted to know the secret of the happiness at work we had achieved. There was a hunger for good news during the winter doldrums. Soon, other agencies adopted the practices we had field tested.


Although SAD is usually discussed with respect to depression, there are also SAD stories related to anger and aggression. How can exchanging a colored incandescent bulb for a low-watt light bulb transform a nasty temper into a state of serenity? A pale purple incandescent bulb can create cheerfulness by mimicking daylight.

Light can work for or against us. When light is direct, glaring, or ultra-bright, it can cause eyestrain, headaches, irritability and arguments. I’ve coached couples who reported significant improvements in their relationship once they understood their partner’s unique requirements regarding exposure to light.

As one client reported, “This information shifted me light-years beyond my original understanding about the effect of lighting on relationships.” She grinned, “Candles 101 wasn’t working. Once I gained practical information, my partner and I began to enjoy calm evenings, fewer arguments and more fulfilling romance. I had never understood that his unmet needs for light were making him snarly.”


Because SAD is related to daylight, it’s also helpful to increase outdoor activity, especially on sunny days. Humans weren’t designed to stay in an enclosed building all day. We are hunters and gatherers by nature and our brains have not significantly evolved since our early cave-dwelling days. Many of my clients who suffer from depression have gained significant relief from exercise combined with 30 minutes of exposure to natural light in the morning. Some people use a light box. Others use full-spectrum light bulbs.

Gaining additional natural exposure to sun can significantly elevate your energy level during winter months. That’s why I always encourage people to go outside during a work break. Take full advantage of the beautiful ball of golden light that shimmers in the sky. It’s an amazing free resource.

Eating a balanced diet can also be immensely helpful in counteracting the tendency toward seasonal affective syndrome. When you notice that you’re craving sugar or carbohydrates, check in with yourself by asking a simple question, “I wonder if I’ll still want to stuff myself with sugar or carbs after I enjoy the benefits of natural daylight?” When fatigue or a bad mood threaten to sour your smile, ask yourself, “What is my body telling me I need right now?”


As a coach, my clients always tell me they gain tremendous benefits when they’re more in touch with their bodies. They say they’re so much happier when they tune into internal clues. Our culture tends to forget that we are body, mind and spirit. Everything you do to approach your life holistically will help you gain greater harmony, happiness and health. Some of my clients have dropped excess weight when they used the suggestions in this article.

If you’re a manager or team leader, you’ll quickly become much more appreciated when you use the proven, thoughtful approach to overcome SAD. Survey the people who work in your organization before and after you address SAD in your work environment. One of my clients credits his promotion to his thoughtful, practical approach to absenteeism, tardiness and low work performance.

Whether you work as a solo entrepreneur at home or you work in an organization, the increased morale and productivity you gain when you say “Goodbye” to winter blues will please you in too many ways to list here. You’ll love your new energy, balance and clarity of thinking. Many of the people I interviewed when I wrote the book, “Joy on the Job” said they gained greater confidence because they were more clear and focused. Your new joy will be reflected back to you by other people and more enjoyable relationships of all types, so enjoy this proven, win-win strategy. © 2012

© 2012 Excerpted with permission from the bestselling book, “Transforming Pain Into Power” by Doris Helge, Ph.D. With over 20 years of experience, award-winning, Certified Master Coach Dr. Doris, has a proven track record of helping people like you Create Your New Life Story. Download your free ebooks and see client testimonials at www.FreeJoyEbooks.com.

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