The Off The Record Truth Of The Winter Blues

4 of the same yellow balls with different emotions of faces on them with the happy one facing you.

Winter wreaks havoc on our mental health. With the shorter days, more darkness, and cold weather it’s no wonder that our mental health drops during this time. But when it drops to low is when you get into trouble.

With mental health being such an important thing and with speaking from my own experiences, I wanted to bring awareness to this predicament and try and help those who may be struggling this winter season.

As we all know, and as I have talked about a lot, mental health is very important. Just as important as physical health. Check out this article for more info as to why. So we need to take care of that aspect of our lives, and unfortunately it tends to take a beating during this time of year.

Why Is Winter Hard on Mental Health?

A glass clear tea cup with a lemon wedge sitting on a white plate that has ginger, oranges and lemons on it. All sitting on some snow during winter

Winter is a completely different season than summer obviously, especially in certain countries and continents. Like up here, in Canada for example, during the winter we get about 6-7 hours of full daylight a day. So you can see why that can be hard on a person.

But it is so much worse than people realize. It takes a bigger toll on a person than most people know.

During the winter we have shorter days, which means less sunlight, and on top of that, very cold weather. Well, because it is dark so early in the day, many people find it hard to keep going and to cope. Most days you go to work in the dark and leave work in the dark, getting no sunlight at all.

All this silently builds in your mind and you can find yourself slowly becoming more of a homebody or less active. More TV watching, less exercising or reading for example.

This act of doing less and being less active can cause stress and anxiety to increase and in some cases lead to depression.

The Science Behind It

Mental Health problems in the winter are more than just feelings and emotions. As we have discussed before, mental health is a type of health.

Did you know that mental health is affected by hormones just like some physical health issues and illnesses? Just like how your thyroid hormones affect your metabolism, serotonin levels play a role in affecting your mood.

Direct sunlight helps stimulate your brain to create more serotonin. This chemical helps boost your mood and makes you feel more calm and focused, but also energized. Then during the dark hours of the day, your brain works the opposite way. It will release melatonin, which causes you to feel more relaxed and helps you sleep.

a white and black brain that has the brain matter as tree branches

Your brain is trained that when it sees dark it is relax time, so when you see dark all day you are bound to feel more sleepy and tired.

Check out this article for more details about sunlight and serotonin! 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I just recently learned about this disorder when I was really struggling last winter season, and it fits perfectly here so I wanted to talk about it real quick.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD for short) is a kind of depression where your mental health is affected by the seasons and weather outside. Most find themselves having that start the beginning of fall and go all winter. 

It is a quite common issue for those struggling with depression to begin with. If it sounds like you, here is a link you can use to talk with someone or contact your doctor for some advice.

What Can Low Mental Health Lead To?

Decreased mental health is actually very dangerous. It is an illness that can be life threatening. 

Sadly, 3% of the whole population has seasonal depression with an increased percentage starting in the fall and continuing till the beginnings of spring. With COVID, this percentage increased, myself included.

People that already have depressional tendencies or have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) already are inclined to become worse, and that can lead to suicide. 

So yes, low mental health is very crucial to your overall health and well-being as a person. A living, surviving person. 

Signs To Watch For

It’s good to be aware of the signs of decreased mental health, so you can stop that rabbit hole before it gets too bad. And remember to watch out for others as well who may be following this path and may not know it, or may not know how to get out. 

Staying In More

This can be a big tip off for the more extroverted people out there. For many, once they hit this point you know something is wrong. If you find yourself or others staying at home more than usually, it may be a good idea to check in.

Being Less Active

Being Less Active

On the other hand, us introverts spend a lot of time at home and do a lot of activities at home. However, even for extroverts, you will start to notice you aren’t as physically active as you usually are. Doing less exercise or pushing off more active errands or chores.

Less Hobbies More TV

A very tell-tale sign that a person is struggling is that they are doing less of what they love and more just sitting on the couch and/or watching TV. And I don’t mean one day you just binge-watch a new show on Netflix, then the next day you go back to your regularly programmed schedule. I mean where you are constantly finding yourself (or others) sitting on the couch all day everyday and not doing the things that bring you joy. 

More Tired/ Sleeping More

Most, if not all the time, people will find themselves more tired and sleeping more. Hitting snooze on the alarm more or sleeping more hours than usual every night. Again, when it is happening consistently, not just every now and then. 

A small dock sitting on a clear and still sea with the blue and cloudy skin reflecting on the water

Low Mood Overall

In general, if you or someone you know is struggling, your overall mood is going to be decreased. A person won’t feel as happy or cheerful, they will feel more tired, anxious, sad, mad, and even irritable. 

How You Can Help Others And Yourself

The good news is there are many ways to help and maybe even prevent the winter blues from occurring at all. 

Get A Sun Lamp

A sun lamp is just that: a sun lamp. It is a lamp made to mimic the UV rays of sunlight. Now, obviously, it’s not completely the same, but it does help a lot to get some of that serotonin flowing.

Force Yourself

I know it’s hard and it can be extremely difficult, but the best way to prevent seasonal depression in the winter is to force yourself not to hermit. Don’t always just sit on the couch. Make sure you are still doing the things that bring you joy, even if you don’t feel like doing it.

Again, everyone is allowed chill days, just watch that you aren’t making every cold winter day a chill day. That’s the first step down the rougher path.


Go hang out with friends and family or invite them over. Humans as people need socialization, especially in the winter when all we want to do is sit at home alone. You need to still at least socialize a little to keep yourself sane.

Pick Up Some Coping Skills

A stack of flat rocks stacked on top of one another over looking the ocean, representing balance

For some people you need to introduce coping skills into your daily schedule to keep you out of the anxiety and depression. 

Some examples of this are: 

  • Journaling
  • Belly breathing
  • Meditating
  • Be Mindful

Or even some hobbies to keep yourself busy so you don’t overthink and lead yourself somewhere you don’t want to be. 

Some Ideas are:

For more hobbies ideas, check out this article!

My Story

Personally, I do have SAD’s and it was really bad last winter season. It was my first winter alone in my new house and I became a hermit. I didn’t do much, and stayed at home most of the time when I wasn’t at work.

This year I am determined to not let that happen again. I have more friends and my boyfriend to help keep me busy. And I now have this blog! I force myself to go hang out with friends and keep going to the gym. As well as keeping reading, and writing.

But during this season it can be hard for many, as you see, myself included. I encourage you to chase away the winter blues and not let the darkness take hold. 
Don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Again, here is the link for online therapy, or reach out to your doctor or even email or DM me if you want to share your story or have any questions.

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