As the dark mornings and darker nights arrive, many of us are starting to get that festive feeling. However, it’s a different story for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), as Compost Direct explains.

The changing of the seasons signifies a difficult time for them and is often the trigger of SAD. Although the exact cause remains unclear, SAD is a type of depression that fluctuates with the seasons. It is most common in winter and symptoms include irritability, low moods, a lack of energy, sleeping for longer and craving carbohydrate-rich ‘comfort food’.

These symptoms are largely believed to be a product of a lack of sunlight — a direct result of winter. The lack of light disrupts a part of the brain that contributes to the production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Levels are usually higher in SAD sufferers.

Serotonin levels, on the other hand, are responsible for maintaining mood, appetite and sleep. These are usually low in those who suffer from SAD, resulting in some of the symptoms listed above.

Not everybody suffers from SAD. Generally, it is considered a spectrum — from those who do not suffer at all to those that suffer greatly. Those towards the middle of the spectrum may not suffer from SAD directly. Because the symptoms are similar to winter blues, the two are often confused.

So how can gardening help this winter condition? Believe it or not, even just touching soil can help. Research was carried out and found that contact with the soil bacteria mycobacterium vaccae can increase serotonin levels. As such, it’s a mood lifter.

You may think it’s difficult to get to work in the garden when it’s dark and cold. However, there are some tasks you can complete regardless of the weather or time of the year. Dig over your soil, add high-quality compost to your borders, feed your lawn, tidy up your greenhouse or maintain your equipment.

Even tending to house plants can improve your mood. Although it may seem like a relatively minor activity, it can have a big impact on improving your mood and combating the overall effects of SAD.