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Summer is in the rearview mirror as we hurtle into fall at full throttle. Mother Nature’s cool breath is upon us, reminding us to cozy up and stay warm. But if the prospect of swapping summer fun for knitted sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes isn’t enough to stave off the autumn blues, don’t worry—you’re not alone! There’s a scientifically proven correlation between seasonal changes and changes to our mood. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects about 15% of the Canadian population.

With each passing fall day, the sun gradually rises later and sets considerably earlier. Less sunlight means that our brain releases less serotonin, a chemical that boosts our mood and helps us feel calm and focused. This transition also affects our circadian rhythm, our internal clock and the driving force behind our biological functions. When this rhythm is affected, like during seasonal transitions, the timing of physiological events in the body also changes, and some people may feel the effects.

These shifts probably explain why starting in October, many people notice that they feel less social, crave more carbohydrates, worry more, have more trouble sleeping or notice changes to their sleep patterns.

Seasonal depression should be taken seriously and it’s important to talk to a doctor about it.

Luckily, it’s entirely possible to make lifestyle changes to maximize your chances of feeling good. Here are a few avenues to explore.

Light therapy

Since the number of hours of sunshine drops dramatically in the fall, this simple, effective and inexpensive technique involves exposing yourself to light from a special lamp to compensate for this decrease. The lamp emits ultraviolet-free light that’s perfectly safe for the skin and eyes. This bright white light, which is similar to natural daylight, is said to boost the brain’s production of serotonin, dubbed the “feel-good hormone.”

Set up the lamp in your workspace to reap the benefits while you go about your routine. Experts agree that whether natural or artificial, one approximately 30-minute session of light therapy per day during the low-light season could have a beneficial effect on morale and energy within three to five days. Their research also indicates that the technique is most effective when the light exposure occurs around lunchtime. However, it’s best not to use the lamp after 5 p.m. so you don’t have trouble falling asleep.

Vitamin D

Most Vitamin D is synthesized in the body through sun exposure, and we absorb much less in the fall and winter due to shorter days and longer sleeves. Vitamin D absorption also varies greatly depending on our skin pigmentation, meaning that dark skin with more melanin provides better protection from the sun’s rays and requires longer sun exposure for optimal absorption (and vice versa). Vitamin D is essential for many metabolic functions, and taking a supplement may be associated with reduced symptoms of depression. In addition to boosting our immunity, it also helps regulate our chemical messengers like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, three neurotransmitters that can influence our mood.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St. John’s wort has a long history of medicinal applications dating back to ancient Greece. Traditionally harvested around the summer solstice, its bright yellow flowers evoke the sun. Useful both symbolically and energetically during the winter, St. John’s wort is one of the most sought-after and frequently consumed mood-boosting plants. Two of its many phytochemical compounds, hypericin and hyperforin, raise neurotransmitter levels and reduce cortisol levels. Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of St. John’s wort when it comes to clinical improvements to mood.

* St. John’s wort can be make you more sensitive to sunlight and interact with a number of prescription medications, so it’s important to consult a health care professional before taking it to avoid drug interactions.

Sacred basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Sacred basil (tulsi) is an adaptogenic plant used in herbal medicine to help the body better cope with the different forms of stress that affect it. Not only does it helps increase our energy by fighting fatigue with its vitamin C content, it also it boosts our vitality and stabilizes our mood, allowing the body to enjoy a restful night’s sleep.

It goes without saying that lifestyle habits play a key role in seeing results. Quality sleep, a balanced diet low in processed foods, hydration tailored to your individual needs and daily physical activity should be at the core of your action plan to fight seasonal depression.


Fall is a time of abundance after the harvest ends, and in Quebec, we are blessed with a wealth of fresh and deliciously healthy products. Take time to cook warm, comforting meals using fresh ingredients that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Now is the perfect time to break out your slow cooker! Seasonal staples include squash, Brussels sprouts and leeks. These are high in fibre and can help stabilize blood sugar levels to help keep your energy constant throughout the day. And don’t forget about all our magnificent Quebec pumpkins, which are packed with antioxidants.

The key to getting your vitality back lies in a multitude of small actions that are tailored to your schedule and abilities. Don’t strive for perfection. Listen to your body and your intuition. Don’t push your body or mind to the limit. Learn to say no and take time for yourself. Even if the people around you are living life in the fast lane, give yourself a break. If the discomfort persists and interferes with your ability to socialize or your daily functioning, consult your doctor.

Jade Marcoux, ÉESNQ graduate in Naturopathy

École d’enseignement supérieur de naturopathie du Québec

The health and medical information published or presented in this article is the opinion of the author only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should use their judgment. It is their responsibility to independently verify the information provided in the article. The contents of this article are for discussion and informative purposes only and should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. A medical professional is the only person who can evaluate your health and give you advice following a medical examination. Rachelle Béry will not be liable for any of the information presented in this article or in any associated links, nor the use or misuse of the information.

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Société canadienne de psychologie, consultée le 20 septembre 2023.

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