What are the winter blues?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Whether you’re diagnosed with SAD or not, I think finding ways to stay positive and hopeful through colder, darker months of the year is a very relevant subject for a lot of people. Many of us struggle to feel our best when all that awaits us outside is the cold, or the cold and wet. Couple that with less daylight hours in winter than in any other season, and when it is daylight, the sun is often blocked by thick grey clouds. This creates a difficult environment to absorb enough vitamin D regularly, which we naturally obtain from bare skin being exposed to direct sunlight.
To me, it makes absolute sense to feel worse in winter. I think naturally we want to get away from cold and darkness. Not only is winter a prime time for illness to spread, but if we go back to a time where climate made a crucial difference to our survival rate, it would be counter-intuitive, if not plain suicide to remain in a place which had harsh living conditions. Birds instinctively fly south for the winter, and I think somewhere in our DNA is the code that makes us want to do the same. Only we can’t, because we’ve made a life in this cold country, and we’ve got to stick to it. Hundreds and thousands of years involving the rise of civilisation and adjustment to one’s environment through appropriate shelter has meant we can live comfortably through most weather extremes, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
If winter is what’s making you blue, just know that it’s not a sign of mental weakness, more a struggle of the psyche dealing with unfavourable changes in the environment. One study conducted at NIH Clinical Centre, Maryland by The National Institute of Mental Health, found that people suffering SAD were found to overproduce the hormone melatonin. They also discovered that people with SAD may have trouble regulating serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood.
“Darkness increases production of melatonin, which regulates sleep. As winter days become shorter, melatonin production increases, leaving people with SAD to feel sleepier and more lethargic, often with delayed circadian rhythms.” – nimh.nih.gov
Whatever the reason for a decline in emotional wellbeing, whether related to the weather or not, it has been proven that the positive change can come strictly from within. Meaning no drugs or extreme measures to help you feel better. This doesn’t mean “don’t go to a doctor,” it just means that there is hope without medical intervention. It’s been done before, myself as an example, but I am well aware of how uniquely different every situation is, and if you, or someone you know has reached a critical point where thoughts of suicide are regular, then it’s crucial to seek medical advice.
Talking Treatments like psychotherapy and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), are useful in helping people to identify negative thoughts and replace them with more positive thoughts, along with identifying activities that are engaging and pleasurable. Once you start experiencing pleasure, you produce more of the “happy hormones,” bringing your body back to a healthy balance.
Here at The School of Natural Health Sciences we are honoured to offer our own accredited diploma-level qualification in CBT, view that course here, We also offer a course in Psychotherapy & Counselling, which creates the perfect complimentary course for any psychological therapy, and provides in-depth insight for those interested in the mind, how it works, and how to help it. Right now we have a celebratory discount available, meaning you get one course absolutely free with the purchase of any course or course-pack deal. Discover all our special offers right here.
Personally, I can’t account for the winter blues, though I do know a thing or two about depression. I also think that any amount of “shitty” weather can eventually get under even the most positive individuals skin. I don’t think anyone is 100% immune to the winter blues if their experience of it is weeks of grey skies, dark days, constant rainfall or harsh weather conditions, low temperatures and even dangerous storms. However, being dramatically in love with the winter season for most of my life, I can perhaps shed some light on the top 5 reasons why I think winter is kind of delightful. Maybe it’s a moot point, but I think perspective has everything to do with how we feel about things. (Please don’t boo me off stage!)
Beat the Winter Blues Nº1
One of the most magical things in the natural world. When the sun catches it just right, it sparkles as if it was left there by mystical fairies. Being obsessed with photography, I can’t resist an opportunity to capture it glittering in all it’s glory. Though perhaps inconvenient for travel, a walk through a forest blanketed in pure, untouched snow… there’s nothing quite like it. I think seeing the beauty in what the cold weather brings, can be a major key in not letting it bum you out. I don’t get excited about much, but I’ll be damned if I don’t let out a squeal when I see it’s been snowing.
Beat the Winter Blues Nº2
Winter makes you thirst for cosiness, a purely blissful state where a hot cup of something waiting to be sipped, some wooly socks by a crackling fire and comfy couch has the power to absorb all your stress and encourage you to enjoy the simple things.
Beat the Winter Blues Nº3
Winter, where things quieten down and the outside rarely tempts you provides a PERFECT circumstance to take up all those “inside hobbies” that may not be so fitting for the summer time. Whether that means knitting scarves for everyone, ploughing through your wish list of unread books, opening up onto a blank canvas or even joining a dance studio, take advantage of it! The indoors really doesn’t have to be depressing. Work on your interests, learn new skills, observe the elements from your studio window. It’s hugely rewarding.
Beat the Winter Blues Nº4
Beat the Winter Blues Nº5
Crisp morning air
There’s nothing quite like that crisp, crystal clear cold morning air that awakens your lungs and pinches your cheeks. Watch your breath turn into a million visible water droplets, and be thankful for the fresh oxygen-rich air breathing life into you. Watch as the morning mist creeps steadily from tree to tree, representing all of life’s little mysteries. Winter can be such a special time indeed.
Oh, and lastly, but possibly most important: My dog looks so damn cute frolicking around in her winter outfits. (Not pictured: Her booties, ski jacket and doggles!)
Mind over matter is something we all need to practice on a regular basis. With a background in philosophy and a brand new way of thinking about what you think about, there’s no telling what you are capable of achieving. Mindfulness takes the student through to meditation, a state of present-tense awareness where we actively choose our thoughts. Philosophy gets you questioning the ‘why’s’ of what we do and who we are. Together, it’s a brilliant balance of both worlds!
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