As temperatures drop and daylight hours shorten in the winter, many people’s moods and energy level tend to be lower as well. While researchers are unsure of what exactly causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), some theories suggest it is light affecting the hormone called melatonin. Seasonal affective disorder impacts individuals differently- some experience more mild symptoms than others. Wilderness therapy is an effective form of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it addresses natural light deficiencies and introduces teens to positive social activities that help them cope with low moods during the winter season.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD refers to recurrent depression, typically in the winter, where symptoms tend to disappear by spring or summer. Teens must experience winter episodes of depression for at least two years in order to be diagnosed. 

Different symptoms are associated with different seasons. While the winter is the most common season where the disorder is onset, summer SAD is possible too. 

Symptoms include:

  • Decreased energy
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Hopelessness
  • Avoiding social situations more than usual 
  • Trouble sleeping.

Why Wilderness Therapy Works 


  • Spending more time outside.


Wilderness therapy is an outdoor program which puts individuals face to face with a piece of their fear- natural light. Being in the natural light allows one to soak in the authentic “feel-good” light. The light that is received through the eyes is proven to boost mood. Temperature has been thought to affect SAD also. In wilderness therapy, students learn to adapt to the weather around them and find the beauty in the situation.


  • Being more physically active. 


Physical activity contributes to increasing mood-boosting brain chemicals that banish the blues associated with SAD. Wilderness therapy incorporates physical activity into the everyday program. Individuals will test their endurance and learn new activities that they can take with them beyond their time at the wilderness therapy program.


  • Connecting with Others. 


The winter months can be lonely for teenagers struggling with SAD who spend less time outside and more time turning to their phones as a form of entertainment. For many teens, boredom during the holiday season leads to risky behaviors and self-destructive coping. Many teens in wilderness therapy programs form lifelong friendships by opening up to their peers about shared struggles and learning relational skills. The skills they learn teach them to collaborate with others, ask for help, and resolve conflict.

blueFire Wilderness Can Help 

blueFire Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based program for teens ages 11-17 who struggle with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and addictive behaviors. Wilderness therapy removes students from the distraction of peers, devices, and demands of life and allow them to heal in a supportive and nurturing environment. Clients will be able to focus on themselves and become more aware of their troubling behaviors. blueFire gives them the skills and tools they need to combat these behaviors and be on their way to a happy and healthy life. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 1-844-413-1999.

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