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Massage away Winter Blues

Updated: May 4, 2023


Winter Lake Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

It's January, it's cold out, it feels like it's been raining for 3 months straight and when it's not raining, it's -2 degrees and the frozen leaf-slush lining the streets is reminiscent of a murky ice death-trap. Christmas and the excitement surrounding it, feels a long time ago and Spring feels a long time away. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive disorder that affects mainly women, in the winter months in countries with cooler climates . It is not known why it occurs but is thought to have many factors contributing to it, including changes in exposure to natural light and how that affects your internal circadian rhythms and secretion of melatonin, diet and genetic factors (Zauderer and Ganzer, 2015). It's prevalence ranges from 1.5 - 9% of the population depending on latitude (Nussbaumer-Streit, et al., 2019). Current treatments include light therapy, antidepressants, melatonin, cognitive behavioural therapy (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2019 and NHS, 2022). NICE guidelines are to manage SAD in the same way as you would any other depressive disorder, so alongside main treatment options, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, exposure to daylight every day such as a walk, sitting near a window if inside, eating a healthy diet, self care and stress management are all beneficial at warding off the winter blues. Having social contact and physical contact such as getting a regular massage, boosts feel-good hormones of oxytocin and endorphins. Studies have found that regular massage reduces anxiety and depression, especially during winter months where they may be higher than during the summer months (Cooke et al., 2007 and Hall et al., 2020). So if January is getting you down, consider regular massage therapy as an essential part of your winter toolkit, to keep your body and your mood, serving you best, all year round.



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References

Cooke, M., Holzhauser, K., Jones, M., Davis, C., Finucane, J. (2007). The effect of aromatherapy massage with music on the stress and anxiety levels of emergency nurses: Comparison between summer and winter. Journal of Clinical Nursing 16(9), pp. 1695-1703. [Online] Available at: The effect of aromatherapy massage with music on the stress and anxiety levels of emergency nurses: comparison between summer and winter - Cooke - 2007 - Journal of Clinical Nursing - Wiley Online Library (Accessed 18.01.23).


Hall, H.G., Cant, R., Munk, N., Carr, B., Tremayne, A., Weller, C., Fogarty, S., Lauche, R. (2020). The effectiveness of massage for reducing pregnant women's anxiety and depression; systematic review and meta-analysis. Midwifery 90 [Online] Available at: The effectiveness of massage for reducing pregnant women's anxiety and depression; systematic review and meta-analysis - ScienceDirect (Accessed 18.01.23).


NHS (2022). Treatment - Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). [Online] Available at: Treatment - Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - NHS (www.nhs.uk) (Accessed 18.01.23).


Nussbaumer-Streit, B., Forneris, C.A., Morgan, L.C., Van Noord, M.G., Gaynes, B.N., Greenblatt, A., Wipplinger, J., Dietmar Winkler L.J.L., Gartlehner, G. (2019). Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder. [Online] Available at: Light therapy for preventing seasonal affective disorder - Nussbaumer‐Streit, B - 2019 | Cochrane Library (Accessed 18.01.23).


Zauderer, C., and Ganzer, C.A., (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: An overview. Mental Health Practice 18(9). pp. 21-24. [Online] Available at: Seasonal affective disorder: an overview (rcni.com) (Accessed 17.01.23).


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