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Vitamin D; could it be the answer to your winter woes?  The December period can be challenging even though it’s a time for festivities, celebration, and happiness. Experiencing sadness during the winter months is common and can be a real issue for many. 

Unchecked, these moods can develop into seasonal depression, also known as SAD. As the days become shorter and the weather gets colder and darker, it can become an effort to function. So, how can you counter this? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘the sunshine vitamin’ might be the solution. But what is vitamin D, where can we get it, and is there a link between vitamin D and beating seasonal mood changes? 

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is essential for many bodily functions. Some of its main functions include the maintenance of bones and teeth. It is also thought to be useful in the prevention of diseases, including diabetes type 1. Despite the fact that it’s called vitamin D, it isn’t actually a vitamin at all. Instead, it’s actually a pro-hormone (essentially the precursor of the hormone). Vitamins cannot be produced by the body and need to be consumed as part of the diet.

Vitamin D, however, is made by the body. Levels of vitamin D can also be boosted through exposure to sunlight and eating foods that are rich in it such as fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, and mushrooms as well as fortified milk, cereals, and juices.

What causes this low mood?

The winter months can induce feelings of sadness and despair. During these times, we tend to leave our homes in the dark and go to work in the dark. This can really have an impact on our mood and general feelings of wellness. It seems that the issue stems from a lack of sunlight. The shorter days of winter disrupt the natural, circadian rhythm.

Some people are more sensitive to this disruption than others. Geography also seems to play quite a large role in both the winter woes and SAD. It seems that the further north you get from the equator, the more likely you are to develop SAD. The delay in sunlight reaching the body is what seems to play havoc with the brain and the body.

Michael Terman, Ph.D., explains that in the northernmost states of the U.S., sunrise can be delayed by a massive 4 and a half hours in the winter. It also seems that low levels of vitamin D may be partly to blame. However, the only way to know whether your vitamin D levels are low is to get them tested. 

You might as well have tried “everything”.

From bundling up in warm clothing and taking morning ‘circadian’ walks to boost sun exposure and regulate the body to sun lamps, you might well feel as though you’ve tried everything you can. Mostly, when it comes to dealing with a low mood during the winter months, we are told to get as much sunlight as possible.

Unfortunately, living in the Northern Hemisphere can make this almost impossible. The skies become grey and daylight become scarce, which doesn’t make for instant mood-lifting. And even if you stand by a window, turn on all the lights, maintain your circadian rhythm, and use a sunbox, you might well still struggle. If this sounds all too familiar, you might want to address your insides first. 

Low vitamin D = Low Mood

Yep, these two go hand in hand and, if you’re trying everything “under the sun” with no results, it might well be that your vitamin D levels are low. In 2021, a systematic review of 15 studies was able to prove that there is a link between the two.

Lower levels of the sunshine vitamin can increase mental health challenges. When raised to normal levels, studies showed a marked improvement in overall mental well-being and mood. 

How are vitamin D and moods linked?

In a different 2021 study, it was proven that vitamin D “plays an essential role in the synthesis of serotonin. Of course, serotonin is most commonly known as the “feel-good” hormone. It’s well known for its role in mood regulation and stabilization. 

But why does winter bring us down?

If we think about vitamin D, it is often known as the sunshine vitamin. And it isn’t just called that for fun. Vitamin D itself is most commonly synthesized from sun exposure. You’ll also find it in small quantities in some foods. In the winter, sun is sorely lacking from most peoples lives.

This results in vitamin D levels dropping. This is what leads to low moods and feelings of sorrow during the winter months. This lack of natural sunlight can also interrupt the circadian rhythm which further unbalances the body. All of this has a knock on effect which can have a severe impact on the body and, of course, your mental health.

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There are also a number of natural products that can help you get through those low moods.

One of these is fish oil which is believed to be the #1 supplement for treating seasonal depression.

If you’re feeling low on energy, try avoiding refined carbohydrates and sugars. A healthy diet is vital and should ideally include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. Avoiding those refined carbohydrates can help boost serotonin levels and reduce stress.

However, you don’t need to completely avoid carbohydrates. The best course of action is to just separate the two and eat protein and carbohydrates separately if and when possible. It’s also important to keep your body moving despite how the cold temperatures may make you feel.

2 extra tips to lift your mood


Be more active. Going for a walk will inevitably expose you to some sunlight (albeit limited). Exercise will also help to boost serotonin levels.

Get into the light

Get light and, ideally, sun first thing in the morning says Michael Terman, PhD. This is a vital aid to keeping your mood high. If you, like literally everyone else, don’t want to go and stand outside in the freezing cold to get your dose of direct sunlight, a sunbox may well help.

Sunboxes are lights with special fluorescent tubes that mimic the sun’s beneficial rays. According to Terman, you need 30 minutes of exposure first thing in the morning in order to keep your body clock on its springtime cycle.

Katie Hart

Katie Hart

Katie Hart is a successful health, beauty and fashion blogger with a BA in Fashion Media at LISOF. Her hobbies include styling, reading, true crime podcasts and singing. She is a lover of all things fashion and beauty, but is happiest when sitting with her mini Maltese, Aria.


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