[esi adrotate group="1" cache="private" ttl="0"]

New resources aim to bring light to people living with seasonal depression

A new range of creative educational resources is aiming to help people who suffer from low mood during the winter months to bring some light into their lives.

Researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh led the development of the resources, which draw on the experiences of people living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, to help others deal with their winter depression.

The Royal College of Psychiatry estimates that about three percent of the population experience SAD, suggesting that more than a million adults in the UK live with the emotional challenges, lowered mood, and feelings of anxiety that can occur during the winter months, when access to natural light is limited.

The resources include a new online education course developed with cognitive behavioural therapy experts to help people recognise and tackle their SAD symptoms and a book guide on adopting new creative practices and finding community support during the shorter, darker, wetter months. A new web-based toolkit will offer guidance on how people can set up support groups in their own communities for people affected by SAD.

The materials are one of the outcomes from a research project called ‘Living with SAD’ led by the Glasgow and Edinburgh academics. The project aims to start a new national conversation on SAD, which can have serious impacts on the mental and physical health of those who experience it.

The project began last year with a national survey which asked people about their experiences of SAD and aimed to assess the severity of its effects on their lives. Many respondents reported that their lives during winter months were less social and less mobile, a feeling that was particularly pronounced in older people.

Survey respondents also described persistent lack of motivation, energy, enthusiasm and confidence, and corresponding decline in positive relationships with friends, families and co-workers.

During Winter 2022-23 ‘Wintering Well’ launched as a series of free workshops for people with SAD in the west of Scotland which brought together the researchers, an artist, and experts in cognitive behavioural therapy with Glasgow based volunteers who have experienced SAD. The group met regularly during the winter months to discuss their experiences of SAD and to design and take part in creative and outdoor activities during the daylight hours.

The experiences of the participants have helped shape the content of the resources, which will be officially launched at a public event in the University of Glasgow’s Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre on Saturday 28th October – the day before the clocks change.

Professor Hester Parr, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, is the Living with SAD project’s principal investigator. She said: “The Wintering Well workshops showed that people who live with SAD can deal better with their symptoms by being part of a community where they can meet regularly outdoors.

“The feedback from participants clearly demonstrates that they felt better after taking part, and that they developed valuable new methods and practices to help them manage their mood during winter.

“What we want to do with these resources is give people around the country new tools which will help them deal with the challenges of SAD, and when setting up their own local Wintering Well groups to connect and offer support.”

Professor Hayden Lorimer, Chair of Human Geography from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and co-investigator on the project, said: “Reduced access to natural light during the winter months can have serious impacts on people’s mental health, particularly in Scotland where days can be shorter than elsewhere in the UK.

“Part of the Living with SAD project is focused on exploring the impacts of limited natural light. It could be a problem that we will face more in the future as our planet warms and the boundaries of the seasons become less clear. We’re already seeing side-effects of climate change which affect access to light. Smoke from wildfires and pollution haze have the effect of filtering or blocking out sunlight.”

Artist Alec Finlay participated in the Wintering Well workshops, and co-produced ‘Light is a Right: A Guide to Wintering Well’, the book which will be launched at the event. It features contributions from many of the participants in the workshops, and outlines creative ways to deal with the effects of SAD.

He said: “This was a group of people willing to give of themselves, who had the courage and humility to share difficult feelings and shadow selves, and, in doing so help one another.

“That ambition became a playful ambition to reshape an entire city according to our relationship to low winter light. I believe that similar co-created accounts should be made by a collective representing every illness, but especially those conditions which are not yet fully understood, explained, or easily curable.”

Professor Chris Williams contributed to the workshops and helped develop the new online CBT resources, which will be hosted on the Living Life to the Full website.

GP Gavin Francis said: “As a GP I see every year the way Scotland’s winter can drag people down, making them feel tired, depressed, and lacking in motivation.

“I’m delighted that this project is broadening awareness about the importance of light to health, and the way that it is helping people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder to find fellowship, encouragement and sustenance through the darker months of the year.”

Neina Sheldon, founder of Make Light Matter, will be presenting at the launch event on her experiences of living with SAD. She said: “I am absolutely delighted that this project has shone a light into this vital but previously under-explored part of people’s lived experiences. Light affects every cell in our bodies, so learning how to harness it to flourish all year round is important.

“Whether you experience the full clinical presentation of seasonal affective disorder or you’re at the milder end of the spectrum, the resources being launched will make a real and lasting impact on so many lives – not just empowering those directly light-affected to manage their symptoms more effectively – but in turn, their loved ones, employers and society as a whole.”

The Wintering well: Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. The in-person event will take place on Saturday October 28 between 12:45pm and 3.:30pm at the University of Glasgow’s Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre.

For more information, or to book a place to attend, visit:

The ‘Light is a Right’ book is available for free

The Living with SAD project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, both of which are parts of UK Research and Innovation.


More in this category

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x