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Embracing the Seasons: Coping with Seasonal Depression and Hypomania 

Let’s lean in and acknowledge something many of us go through but might not fully grasp: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It’s a condition that can affect people in different ways, surprisingly causing not just winter depression when the days grow shorter and darker, but summer depression as well when the sun is blazing, and even hypomania for some (American Psychiatric Association, 2020). 

In this blog, we’ll explore how we can regain rebalance and resilience from these struggles using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness and Light Therapy.  

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)  

Interestingly, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition that doesn’t discriminate between seasons. It can bring on winter depression when the days get colder and darker, or summer depression when the days are longer and brighter. Some individuals may also experience hypomania during these seasons, characterized by elevated mood, increased energy, and restlessness (Rosenthal et al., 1984). Let’s take a closer look at these aspects of SAD: 

  • Winter Depression: With the onset of winter, characterized by shorter days and reduced sunlight, many individuals find themselves grappling with a sense of sadness, lethargy, and sometimes even a profound clinical depression. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as winter depression, a prevailing facet of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 
  • Summer Depression: In contrast, as the summer months approach and bring longer and brighter days, some people experience a noticeable dip in their mood. Feelings of irritability, fatigue, and a general sense of being downcast can emerge during this time. This is what we refer to as summer depression, another component of the complex spectrum of SAD. 
  • Hypomania: It’s important to note that not everyone with SAD experiences depression. Some individuals undergo hypomanic episodes during specific seasons. Hypomania is characterized by elevated mood, increased energy levels, irritability, and at times, impulsive behavior. It’s essential to recognize that hypomania associated with SAD is generally less severe than the full-blown mania often seen in bipolar disorder. 

Managing SAD with CBT, Mindfulness and Light Therapy 

Now, let’s explore how you can effectively address the complexities of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), whether you’re dealing with winter depression, summer depression, or hypomania. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

CBT stands as a versatile therapeutic approach, providing valuable tools to regain emotional agility, regardless of the specific season-related challenges you face. Research has consistently highlighted its effectiveness in treating depression (Hofmann et al., 2012). Here’s how CBT and mindfulness can complement each other to offer comprehensive support: 

Identify Seasonal Patterns: Through collaborative work with a skilled therapist, you embark on a journey of self-discovery to recognize the unique patterns your mood follows in response to the changing seasons. This process involves pinpointing the triggers, thoughts, and behaviors associated with each season, enabling you to develop tailored strategies for managing these shifts effectively. 

Addressing Winter and Summer Depressive Thoughts: For individuals experiencing winter or summer depression, CBT provides structured guidance in exploring and challenging negative thought patterns specific to these conditions. It helps you recognize how your thoughts impact your emotions and behaviors, while also helping reframe ineffective, self-defeating beliefs. Additionally, CBT equips you with practical coping strategies to combat lethargy, isolation, and the lack of motivation often associated with these forms of depression. 

Behavioral Strategies: CBT extends beyond addressing thoughts alone; it also delves into behavioral strategies that can be applied to combat depression or manage the elevated energy and irritability of hypomania. For instance, it may involve developing structured routines to mitigate the disruptive effects of seasonal changes on your daily life. 

Coping Skills: CBT equips you with a toolbox of coping skills designed to be adaptable to different seasonal challenges. These skills encompass behavioral activation, relaxation techniques, problem-solving strategies, and effective communication methods, all of which can help you navigate the complexities of SAD. 

Goal Setting and Achievement: By breaking down your goals into manageable steps, CBT encourages you to set realistic objectives for each season. This approach enables you to maintain a sense of accomplishment and purpose, counteracting the despondency often associated with SAD. 


Mindfulness is a practice that beautifully complements CBT and enhances your ability to navigate the emotional fluctuations brought on by Seasonal Affective Disorder. Research has indicated that mindfulness can effectively reduce depression symptoms (Hofmann et al., 2010). Here’s how the two approaches work hand in hand: 

Mindful Coping: Embracing mindful coping strategies allows you to navigate the ebbs and flows of seasonal changes while fostering emotional resilience. This approach involves developing a keen awareness of the changing seasons and recognizing how they affect you personally. By acknowledging these patterns, you can proactively prepare for the challenges that each season may bring. 

Mindful Presence: Cultivating mindful presence entails staying fully engaged with the present moment, regardless of the seasonal challenges you face. This involves practicing self-compassion, regulating your emotions effectively, and using mindful breathing techniques to ground yourself in the present moment. 

By integrating CBT and mindfulness, you can develop a deeper understanding of how Seasonal Affective Disorder uniquely impacts you and build effective strategies to maintain emotional balance throughout the year. These combined practices empower you to face the challenges of winter and summer depression or hypomania with greater resilience and inner peace. 

Light Therapy 

 Light therapy is indeed a powerful and adaptable tool that can be customized to suit your unique needs, whether you’re grappling with winter depression, summer depression, or hypomania. Research has consistently demonstrated its effectiveness in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (Golden et al., 2005). Let’s delve deeper into some key tips to optimize your light therapy experience: 

  • Consultation with Healthcare Professional: Initiating light therapy should begin with a consultation with a healthcare professional, ideally one familiar with treating SAD. This step is crucial to determine the most suitable light therapy regimen tailored to your specific condition and individual needs. 
  • Morning Exposure: For many individuals, exposure to bright light in the morning yields the most favorable results. The early morning hours are particularly effective as they align with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This synchronization helps regulate your internal clock, promoting a sense of alertness and mood improvement. 
  • Duration and Intensity: The duration and intensity of light exposure should be adjusted according to your healthcare professional’s recommendations. These parameters can vary based on your specific symptoms, the severity of your condition, and the type of light therapy device being used. 
  • Consistency is Key: Establishing a consistent routine is essential for the effectiveness of light therapy. Adhere to the recommended daily schedule to maximize its benefits. Consistency helps reset your circadian rhythms and maintain mood stability. 
  • Monitor Progress: Keep a record of your daily experiences and mood changes while undergoing light therapy. This log can be valuable in assessing the therapy’s effectiveness and making any necessary adjustments. Be patient; it may take a few weeks to notice significant improvements. 
  • Combine with Other Strategies: Light therapy is most effective when used in conjunction with other coping strategies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness. Integrating these approaches can enhance your overall management of SAD. 
  • Create a Comfortable Environment: Make your light therapy sessions as comfortable as possible. Choose a well-lit room where you can sit comfortably, read, or engage in other activities during your exposure. Some individuals find it helpful to use a light box with adjustable intensity to tailor the experience to their comfort level. 

Remember that light therapy is a valuable addition to your toolkit for managing SAD, but it is most effective when used as part of a comprehensive approach that may include therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and mindfulness practices. With proper guidance and consistency, light therapy can significantly contribute to alleviating the symptoms of winter and summer depression or hypomania, enhancing your overall well-being. 


Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t discriminate, affecting some with winter depression, summer depression, or hypomania. But with the right tools and techniques, you can manage these mood swings effectively. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness and Light Therapy are powerful allies in your journey. Whether you’re experiencing the winter blues, summer lows, or bouts of hypomania, remember that help is available, and you can find stability and balance in any season.  

If you find yourself struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support, for you don’t have to do it all alone. At Love This Therapy, we are dedicated to helping you through those tough winter and summer months. Call us at 604-229-4887 or email us at to book your free initial discovery call. We’re here to support you on your path to emotional well-being. 


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2020). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Pub.  
  • Rosenthal, N. E., Sack, D. A., Gillin, J. C., Lewy, A. J., Goodwin, F. K., Davenport, Y., … & Wehr, T. A. (1984). Seasonal affective disorder: A description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41(1), 72-80. 
  • Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169-183. 
  • Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 36(5), 427–440. 
  • Golden, R. N., Gaynes, B. N., Ekstrom, R. D., Hamer, R. M., Jacobsen, F. M., Suppes, T., … & Nemeroff, C. B. (2005). The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of mood disorders: A review and meta-analysis of the evidence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(4), 656-662. 

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