Beating Seasonal Depression through Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

Friday 29 November 2019, 3:42PM
By Beckie Wright

Even though the end of the year is the time to be with friends and family, not everybody is looking forward to the season with the same cheery disposition. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more common than many believe. SAD is a type of depression related to changes in season—according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, depression with seasonal pattern must include having depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year for at least two years. Although winter is the season most commonly associated with SAD, symptoms of depression can also appear during the summer season. It is not uncommon that Christmas and summer holiday breaks can heighten feelings of anxiety, stress, and other negative feelings that are associated with seasonal depression. Alcohol users can find difficulty in moderating their drinking especially during celebrations or parties, which can increase their anxiety and struggle with substance abuse. 

Winchester Counselling—headed by Andrew Winchester, local counselling specialist in Christchurch—can help with individuals who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress brought upon seasonal depression through an evidence-based therapy called ACT.

ACT—or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy—is a mindfulness-based behaviour therapy, which can be an effective tool to treat clinical disorders by developing psychological flexibility. According to Dr Russel Harris, ACT does not emphasise reducing symptoms as the end goal, because attempting to get rid of the symptoms is part of where the clinical disorder stems from in the first place. Instead, the goal of ACT is to develop a meaningful life, while accepting the pain that comes with it.

He says, “The therapy is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life.” 

This is not to say it will be an easy feat for the people who are struggling – ACT is an ongoing process. Andrew Winchester uses ACT to help individuals deal with stress or grief, both of which are much more difficult to deal with during times that are typically celebrations. Together with Winchester Counselling, people can develop mindfulness skills to help find a place of resilience and emotional strength.

To learn more, visit the Winchester Counselling website at