Combatting Seasonal Malaise: Experts Share Insights and Strategies to Tackle Winter Blues

Winter Blues

The Effects of Darker Days on Mental Health have been Addressed by Allina Health Specialists.

According to Allina Health experts, winter’s arrival affects usual habits, sleep patterns and mental wellness with its elongated nights and shorter days.

Dr. Sarah Paper, PsyD said that less light during the day is often associated with a decrease in individuals’ emotional state, causing winter blues.

“Most patients link darkening days with their own darkening moods,” said Dr. Paper while stressing the huge effect of daylight availability and shorter days on mood and overall health.

Although seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is still rarely diagnosed, about 20% of people report feeling more down during the winter, while approximately 5% suffer from SAD.

For those who already deal with depression, the symptoms of winter blues can get even worse in these darker months.

“Winter can be especially tough for someone who has seasonal depression,” added Dr. Paper noting that SAD, which is another type of depression, usually goes away as spring comes.

To address SAD, she suggested cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, light therapy and vitamin D supplements since sunlight becomes scarcer during colder months hence lower vitamin D levels leading to low mood.

Even though it is sunny in Minnesota throughout the year but below freezing temperatures can exacerbate seasonal depression.

Irrespective of weather conditions Dr. Paper highlighted how spending time outside was vital but acknowledged it was harder in deep coldness like this one.

Feeling trapped indoors has a psychological effect that worsens isolation throughout the colder months which eventually lead one to a vicious circle of mental illness.

Furthermore, social isolation coupled with reduced interaction outdoors during winter could further dampen people’s spirit(s).

Dr. Paper also explained how a lack of daylight reduces serotonin levels and increases melatonin to make people feel drowsy all day long thereby impacting their mental well-being as a whole.

Insights from Ancestral Living

According to Allina sleep medicine physician, Dr. Andrew Stiehm, mental health significance of winter blues might lie in ancestral survival patterns.

Based on his speculation, in ancient times people slowed down during winter due to less sunlight.

However, modern lifestyles and expectations that we should maintain a consistent pace all year long conflict with this natural inclination, perhaps leading to seasonal depression.

“Perhaps our bodies still remember the past when slowing down during winter was necessary for warmth and safety,” commented Dr. Paper suggesting that trying to keep high energy levels for an entire year may lead to anger and more depressions in winter.

Dr. Stiehm attributed much of seasonal depression to the sudden change caused by the end of daylight savings time after which there is increased sleep disturbance and mental disorders (2010).

He also pointed out how its effects on sleep schedules affect mental health in addition to research finding a spike in depression and suicide rates around these times.

Advocacy for Mental Health: Pushing for Change

Dr. Stiehm advocates for putting an end to biannual clock changes and a permanent switch over to standard time as it is beneficial for mental health.

He is in agreement with medical societies who are calling for an end to clock changes as they believe that this has adverse effects on people’s mental well-being.

How to Fight off the Winter Blues

This was according to Dr. Paper who had moved from Tucson, Arizona (warm) to Minnesota (cold).

In her work, she drew on Norwegian studies to show how customs and seasonal festivities alleviate the depression brought about by low sunlight.

Dr. Paper suggested that “a positive attitude and reinterpreting winter can make these months more tolerable.”

Furthermore, she recommended a light therapy with UV lamps and sunrise alarm clocks as a means of dealing with internal clock changes caused by seasonal differences.

However, as others choose taking vacations during winter as a solution, Dr. Paper warned that it might vary among different individuals where some worsen upon their return home.

“There aren’t benefits for all people towards going away during winter,” she said insisting that one should look for strategies that work for them.

As per experts advise on reframing the problem and offering solutions to manage seasonal depression, the society is encouraged to have lessons from culture and psychological techniques.

They help cope with shorter days thus ensuring the mental health and welfare during winter seasons.


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  • Combatting Seasonal Malaise: Experts Share Insights and Strategies to Tackle Winter Blues