Why we get the winter blues

And more importantly, how to combat it

Ellie Taube, Editor in-chief

Does the wintertime make you feel especially gloomy? Maybe it’s the stress of finals in December, or the winding down of the holidays at the beginning of January, but for some reason or another, it is very common for people to feel more tired and less motivated during these cold months. 

When I come back to school after Christmas break, I am always slow to get back into things. It’s usually cold, which I hate, and I have to get up early again, which I also hate. All this combined usually means that I spend the first part of the semester getting behind in my classes, and on top of that, I always get sick during the second semester and end up missing school and getting even more behind as a result. 

According to many psychologists, however, there’s more to the winter blues than just typical teenage laziness and the fact that going to school every day is like walking into a giant petri dish. 

Wintertime sadness can also be referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which many students suffer from every year. Experts believe that SAD is a direct result of the shorter days and decreasing exposure to sunlight during the winter months, as the body produces more melatonin, a chemical in the brain triggering sleepiness, in response to longer hours of darkness.

While it is estimated that only 6% of people are diagnosable with the actual disorder, it is reasonable to think that the same causes, increased illness and decreased sunlight, have similar effects on all of us during December to March, according to TeensHealth from Nemours.

Fortunately, Premier Health says there are several tips and tricks to help us combat our winter depression. For starters, do your best to plan ahead of time how you will maintain your emotional health. Just like we physically prepare for winter by washing our hands and wearing warm clothes, we should also take the time to ensure we are in a positive frame of mind. This could mean creating a list of goals to accomplish or making consistent plans with friends. Do something that keeps your mind occupied and busy.

Another solution touted by many professionals is sunlight. We cannot underestimate the effects that exposure to sunlight, or lack thereof, has on our bodies. Even when it is cold and gray out, the sun is still out there, so it wouldn’t hurt to bundle up and take your dogs on a long walk or go on a run just to get some Vitamin D. 

Doctors studying SAD also suggest getting even more direct access to the light your body craves by doing light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a special light box for a short period each day in place of the sunlight you are missing; however, it is important to remember that using a light box is like taking a supplement—you should only be taking it because there is not enough of the real thing currently accessible and not in place of it. Also, it is important to note that tannings beds, as well as, other things of that nature are not adequate substitutes and will only do you more harm for a variety of different reasons.

So while feeling down in the dumps during the winter months doesn’t automatically mean you have SAD, it is not uncommon to feel unusually blue in comparison to other months in the year. Especially for students, the cold temperatures, flu season, early mornings, and late night study sessions make it hard to maintain a good mental state.

It is worthwhile, however, to make an effort to combat your winter blues. Take a walk, make plans with friends, and keep in mind that, like all things in life, this time will pass and we will feel better sooner rather than later. Remember, Spring Break is always just around the corner.