That familiar feeling is here again. The sadness, the humdrum… hello again, winter blues.
What does it mean to have the winter blues? It’s an issue now more than ever, thanks to the recent pandemic.
More of a general term than an actual diagnosis, the winter blues tends to be a state where you’re feeling down in the dumps, in a rut, or just sad (1). Some pin it down to certain events, while others blame it on the colder days during fall and winter months.
Is winter blues a real thing? Studies suggest it is. Psychologists have studied how people’s demeanors can change during the colder months. Some develop minor depression-like symptoms, while others suffer from a more severe form called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
What causes winter blues? Some of the biggest culprits, especially since COVID are:
Lack of social interaction
Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, humans were meant for community. Some people thrive being surrounded by lots of friends and strangers, while others might enjoy only the occasional meetup with an old friend.
Either way, the recent pandemic has called into the question the importance of social interaction. In an effort to prevent the disease, it’s been recommended to keep your distance and avoid spending too much time with each other.
Unfortunately, the American Psychological Association reports that isolation can increase symptoms of depression, poor sleep quality, as well as contribute to things such as obesity and premature mortality (2).
Increased screen time
In the age of technology, it’s easy to spend a good bit of your time on a device such as a cellphone, tablet, or computer. Staying connected through text, voice chats, and social media have become the norm.
The recent pandemic strongly discouraged people from meeting up in person, so it only made sense to utilize the virtual options modern technology had to offer. But at what cost?
While data is still being collected on the subject, a study was done with a group of United States adults on the association between the amount of time someone spends in front of a screen and their level of depression. The results showed that those that were in front of a screen for more than 6 hours per day experienced moderate to severe depression, especially among women (3).
Lack of Vitamin D/Sunlight
Cold weather means spending less time outdoors. This means you’re likely not getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Typically the sun helps out with this, but a lack of adequate sunshine can make it harder to be happy.
Depending on where you lived during the most intense period of the COVID lockdowns, you may not have been able to leave your house, even during the summer. And if you’re living in a place with a renewed shutdown, it can make it that much harder to get out and get some fresh air and sunlight.
Studies have been conducted on the effects of low vitamin D levels and mood. There seems to be pretty consistent evidence that not getting enough can lead to symptoms of depression (4).
Lack of routine
We were made for purpose. Having to-do lists, schedules, and routines helps us complete tasks, feel a sense of accomplishment, and get ahead. It also creates a sense of security as you operate within the structured confines of the day-to-day (5).
When the pandemic hit, life as we know it came to a grinding halt. Calendars were wiped clean, and many people were left feeling unsure of what to do with their time.
A lack of routine can easily create feelings of discomfort, and even in some cases despair. With no direction, depression can set in. Even in non-COVID situations, colder months may have you shut up for long periods at a time. Not knowing how to occupy that time can have negative impacts on your mental health
Whether it was the news, talk radio, or social media, the constant barrage of bad news from the pandemic left many people in a worse mental state than before.
While the media has its perks, a lot of what you see is either filtered, censored, or tailored to fit a certain agenda. It’s hard to know what’s true, and often the confusion of information leaves people anxious and depressed (6).
How to Beat Winter Blues Naturally
Dealing with the winter blues is no picnic. Troubled sleep, anxious thoughts, and a depressed outlook can make it hard to see the positive.
Making sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet can make a huge difference. Addressing your gut health and getting the vitamins and minerals you need can help stabilize hormones, which can affect your mood.
Staying active is also a big part of handling the winter blues with grace. Walking outside when possible, attending a stretching class, or taking up an indoor workout program can help keep your heart pumping and the feel good hormones flowing.
Other activities like talking with friends, journaling, and expressing gratitude are great ways to train your mind to focus on the positive.
Can meditation help? Sure. Focusing on happier times, a dream destination, the truth of God’s Word✝ , or soothing music can help shift your perspective and elevate your mood.
As the earth rotates around the sun, different seasons bring about different things. Fall and winter bring on shorter days, longer nights, and often bouts of sadness in some people.
Whether it’s situation specific or a long-term, no-reason-in-particular feeling, the winter blues are something worth addressing. And with everything that’s happened over the past two years, many of these symptoms have increased dramatically.
It’s important to take care of yourself, for both you and the ones around you. You matter and are needed.
References & Disclaimer
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author