Winter can be hard on all of us. The dropping temperatures, frigid winds, and snow banks that grow into sidewalk trash magnets. How can something so seemingly random as the latitude of NYC (~41°N) have such a big impact on my mood? Well without delving into the finer points of orbital mechanics, and our circadian cycles, the short answer is: we don’t know, but it does. Although it’s a not a perfect correlation, there does seem to be some relationship between our moods and the amount of sunshine in a day! Roughly 4-6 % of adults are thought to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but an even larger number of us experience mild depression as the days grow shorter in late fall/early winter.
Over the years I have identified a few coping strategies that you might find helpful:
- Get any sunshine you can, even if it’s just 5 mins, it can help! For a more direct approach some SAD patients buy light therapy lamps, here’s a guide to finding one for your needs.
- Get cozy, the Danish call it hygge while Norwegians call it koselig, but both Scandinavian cultures take the concept of winter to trigger an abundance of warm, comfortable clothes, hot tea, and remembering to socially engage with others. While you might not be able to have all those every night, make the effort to be kind and keep yourself cozy
- In the vein of being cozy, having warm bedding such as an electric heating blanket or down comforter, makes getting into bed on cold nights even better
- Wear bright colors, even just a splash of color in a scarf or an umbrella helps
- Keep a plant near you, even just a small cactus or succulent on your desk can liven up your home or office space with that bit of green hinting at spring’s return
At the very least take heart knowing that every day after the winter solstice (late December) the days are getting longer by approximately one minute, that’s an extra half hour every month.