What Are Winter Blues?
In Canada, the winters can be tough and if you’re feeling like your mood drops with the temperature, you’re not the only one. Winter blues is a common feeling that many of us experience during the season changes. They are a wave of low emotions that come with the cold and dark days. But why do we get the winter blues? Well, it’s a normal human process. It’s how our body adjusts to the change of seasons. It affects everyone differently but it’s important to recognize it’s natural.
Seasonal Affective Disorder vs Winter Blues
Some people mistake winter blues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). However, these are two extremely different things. About 15% of people in Canada experience winter blues, while only 2-3% of people in Canada experience SAD. Although the terms SAD and winter blues are often used interchangeably, the winter blues can usually be treated with simple solutions whereas SAD is a form of clinical depression. People suffering from SAD often require psychiatric treatment, medication and light therapy.
Despite the fact that millions of us say we've suffered a winter-related low mood, it can feel as though the winter blues is just a myth. But there's scientific evidence to support the idea that the season can affect our moods. Most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way the body responds to daylight. One theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up. For those going through winter blues, lack of daylight is probably playing a part.
Feelings of Winter blues include:
Change in appetite
Feelings of SAD include:
Inability to concentrate
Decreased interest in social or work activities
Feelings of sadness or despair
Lack of motivation
Sleeping too much
Feeling hopeless about the future
Your Grade 12 Peers Thoughts on Winter Blues
The winter blues are very common, with many of us experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. You may find yourself feeling more lethargic and down overall. When asked in a survey how seasonal changes affect you, a grade 12 student said that “the lack of sun and outdoor activity in the winter greatly affects my mental health as I cannot get out and see friends as often.” Another grade 12 student also said “I think winter is just the type of season that one becomes very disinvolved socially. You can't hang out with your friends outside like you would in summer.” In the survey, the twelve grade 12 students were also asked if they thought their mood changes when winter comes and almost all the students surveyed said that their mood does change. In the changing of clocks, we are forced to acknowledge the arrival of months of darkness, a realization that it is likely to be associated with a negative psychological effect.
Ways to improve your mood this winter:
1. Let some light in!
Get outside during the day if you can, keep your curtains open, and when indoors, spend as much time as you can near the windows. Even if it’s cloudy, getting some daylight can help boost your mood.
2. Get physical!
Even though hitting the gym might be the last thing you feel like doing, physical activity is always a great tool to help you manage your mental health. Start small and try a lunchtime walk around the block.
3. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule!
It might feel like your bed is the only one that understands this funk you’re in but over-sleeping can actually worsen the symptoms of the winter blues.
4. Take it easy!