Seasonal Affective Disorder and Writers

Writers spend a lot of time indoors sitting down. It’s the nature of the work and we can’t do a whole lot to change that, although some people use treadmill desks to ensure they exercise while they are working.

I don’t personally know of any writers who use them and I doubt Oscar Wilde would have agreed that the six hours per day he spent chained to a treadmill while in prison benefited his writing.


As for me well, I need to be still and quiet to focus. Pedalling on some masochistic contraption sounds like the closest thing to hell I can think of.

Rather than pedalling like crazy on the road to nowhere I much prefer to be outside so I can see a blue sky, enjoy some fresh Atlantic air and smell the ocean. And so I take regular walks.

sunset over sea illustrating and article on seasonal affective disorder and writers















I am lucky that I live a mile away from a pretty little pier here on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and I have made that my daily walk. I also have a little dog, Eppie, who needs walking so I have no excuse.

When I walk I can see and hear the birds as they swoop, dive and flutter around the hedgerows. I can observe the seasons change by noting the arrival and demise of the different plants and flowers.

I can watch the fishermen, landing their days work, sorting out their catch, and repairing the oyster beds damaged in the latest storm.

I also find that solutions to writing problems wing their way into my mind when I am simply watching and listening to my environment. Frequently I get new ideas as well and I love the fact these ideas arrive effortlessly without me trying to ‘think them up.’

blackbird on a branch illustrating an article about seasonal affective disorder and writers


However, they don’t call it the Wild Atlantic Way for nothing. The wind here would blow you over, it seems to rain more days than not and as for the blue sky I so love – well to be brutally honest most days here the sky is grey. I hate grey. Grey is the colour of depression.

Grey is also the colour of Galway – at least most of the time. Since moving to Galway the hardest thing for me to adapt to has been the weather.

Here it’s the most common topic of conversation and subject to a whole host of jokes. But, joking apart, the weather is brutal. I moved here from the sunny east coast and nothing prepared me for amount of grey and rainy days.


I remember watching a TV documentary program about a famous writer who hated the weather so much she moved herself off to the south of France for the winter. She found the lack of sunshine made her too depressed to write. She also tried a sad-light but that didn’t work for her.

When weeks of greyness turned my own thoughts grey I bought a sad-light myself. I can’t say it changed my life, but maybe it took the edge off a bit. I am still not sure as it’s hard to evaluate these things accurately.

According to Mind, an organisation that supports those of us with mental problems, seasonal affective disorder is a recognized mental health disorder which some people experience at particular times of the year.

Many of us are affected by the seasons without having this disorder. It’s entirely normal to feel happier and enjoy more energy when the sun is out and skies are blue.


However, for those who have this disorder, the impact on everyday life is far greater and can lead to depression. Mind describe it as ‘like having your own portable black cloud,’ which, having had my own problems with depression I can safely say is a very accurate description.

We can’t all spend our winters in the south of France, although I’m sure we’d all feel a lot better under a warm blue sky. So what can we do?

Well I’m no doctor, so if you are feeling depressed my best advice is to consult one. Don’t wait until your grey thoughts get completely dark. Don’t forget that depression is an illness which can be fatal. I have endured recurring bouts of depression throughout my life but with the help of my G.P. and regular walks and lots of fruit – I am now managing this very well.

Depression is a different beast than SAD. If you are not feeling depressed but just feel a little ‘under the weather’ then you could try making sure that the minute the sun shines you are out there grabbing your few rays.

Taking a break improves your productivity so don’t be afraid of leaving your desk. It will still be there when you get back but you will feel better able to tackle your work.


You can try increasing your walking speed to help release endorphins which can elevate your mood. Runners experience this as ‘runners high.’ We could call it ‘writers high.’

Another thing you can try is the pomorodo technique. I have found this very effective at decreasing the amount of time I spend sitting.  I use the pomorodo five-minute breaks to do a quick burst of movement.

My little breaks usually concern a bit of housework or some quick food preparation. If you don’t know what I am talking about you can learn more about the pomorodo technique here.

Irony loves to sneak up on us whenever we’re not looking and it’s funny that having written this post the sun is actually shining here on this September day in Galway.

In fact, the sky is beautifully blue and the sun is bright. So, having said all I need to say for today I am going to round up Eppie and head off now to enjoy these lovely rays of sunshine while we can.

puppy in the basket of a bike illustrating an article about seasonal affectve disorder and writersBest of luck with your writing.


For more practical help with the various problems writers face click right here.










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