For some people, winter is a time for hot chocolate, sledding, and rosy cheeks. For others, winter is a curse of low energy, anxiety, and depression.

If you identify with the second group, it’s not just your imagination! Winter involves shorter, darker days, cold temperatures, and significantly less sun exposure. This triple threat can cause what is commonly referred to as the Winter Blues, and medically diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Whether you find yourself experiencing a minor case of the winter blues or a more serious affliction of seasonal depression, the strategic use of aromatherapy with essential oils can improve your mental mindset and clear the debilitating fog that the winter brings. 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Most common between September and April, but especially prevalent during December, January, and February, SAD causes anxiety, depression, lethargy, mood changes, and sleep problems.

This seasonal stress can even weaken the immune system and wear down the body. It’s common for people suffering from SAD to withdraw from their daily activities and avoid social gatherings entirely.

It can become a tail-spin of negative emotions that doesn’t relent until the spring sunshine arrives. 

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Limited sunlight exposure during the winter months drives the occurrence of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The natural light we receive through our eyes actually controls our moods, sleep patterns, appetite, and internal temperature. Since many people are inside at work during the only sunny hours of the winter, it’s possible to go without seeing the sun for days on end!

This sunlight deprivation easily interrupts the brain’s chemistry and balance, which leads to depression. 

What Is Aromatherapy?

Today, more than 90 essential oils have become popular among natural and alternative health advocates. They’re most commonly used in aromatherapy, the practice of inhaling or topically applying essential oils to promote health and wellbeing. 


Research indicates that essential oils may be able to improve a wide range of physical and emotional conditions. Wounds, coughing, fever, allergies, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress are just a few of the most popular therapeutic applications of essential oils

How Can Aromatherapy With Essential Oils Help SAD?

Many doctors immediately prescribe medication for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but traditional antidepressant drugs have been found to increase lethargy and sleepiness and place users at risk of dependence.

That’s definitely not the end goal for people trying to escape these winter blues! While doctors can, of course, offer valuable solutions, essential oils offer a totally different route to mental health and wellness through the use of aromatherapy.

Essential oils are some of nature’s most powerful healers. Their potent scents go directly into the brain and unleash their phytochemicals in the limbic system to signal the brain to calm down, find balance, and rejuvenate itself.

By carefully choosing aromatherapy with essential oils that will send the right signals to the brain, you can fight the winter blues and SAD naturally. In general, citrus oil work to cheer and uplift the motions, while floral oils fight feelings of anxiety and melancholy. Some help restore balance to sleep patterns as well. 

The best part about using aromatherapy for this purpose is that essential oils can be used in a whole host of ways based on your preferences.

  1. Vaporize oils throughout your house using a diffuser. This creates a steady stream of mood-boosting scents
  2. Dab diluted oils behind your ears and on your wrists,
  3. Use them in the bath or diluted in massage oil

Whichever way you choose, you’ll notice those pesky winter blues fading away long before the sun peeks its head out for the spring season. 

The Best Aromatherapy Essential Oil Choices

You may need to explore and experiment before finding your favorite essential oils. The following list will get you started with popular mood boosters.

  • Sweet Orange: known for its calming properties to relieve anxiety
  • Bergamot: an uplifting citrus scent that releases frustration
  • Neroli: a powerful fragrance that calms the mind and heart
  • Lavender: a family favorite to soothe and reduce stress and anxiety
  • Rose Otto: balances the emotions for a sense of controlled calm
  • Frankincense: encourages the ability to overcome obstacles
  • Clary Sage: calms and balances the hormones

The Bottom Line