As winter begins for those of us in the northern hemisphere, I am reminded that the beginning of winter is often marked by people around me complaining. They miss the sunshine, warm weather, and the vibrant colors of spring, summer, and autumn. The icy winds cut through their coats and their good moods alike, and the shorter days sap productivity.
Seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder, aptly abbreviated to SAD) certainly should not be overlooked as a likely culprit for this winter-phobia. Humans are made to like sunlight. The sun causes our brains to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods, among other things. With overcast skies being more prevalent in the winter, we experience less sunlight, which means less serotonin, which also means more sadness, or even SADness.
With this biological predisposition discouraging us from enjoying the winter, it becomes tough to find good things to say about the cold season that can provide a counterbalance. But as winter approaches, any encouragement is a good start. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It's your turn — When it's winter in the northern hemisphere, that means that summer has arrived in the southern hemisphere. Almost everyone around the world takes their turn with winter. Rest assured in the knowledge that, while you're wrapped up in coat, hat and mittens, your friends in the southern hemisphere are headed to the beach.
- Winter can be beautiful — Yes, the cold, icy winds make it hard to enjoy the scenery, but if you've ever taken a walk in the dead of night during a light snowfall, you know what I'm talking about. The snow on the ground dampens ambient noise, so much so that you can hear the flakes touching down with a gentle crispness. Cloudy skies during the day cast a soft, diffuse light over the thriving evergreen trees.
- There's a season for everything — Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there's a season for everything. While this verse is normally cited in times of hardship, I think it applies to winter, as well. Just like there's a season to reap and a season to sow, there's also a season for shining sun and warm temperatures, as well as a season for cloudy skies and a biting chill.
- Winter is part of creation — Winter is a part of God's vision for the world as much as the warmer seasons are. God created Earth and placed it exactly the right distance away from the sun and tilted just right to give us the seasons. It was not an accident or a mistake. The snow, ice and wintery cold are as much a part of creation as the warm sun of summer and the blooming flowers of spring.
Even keeping these things in mind, it can be hard to get through the winter blues. If you find yourself feeling down this winter, reach out. Talk to someone — a friend, family member, or a therapist or pastor. Trying to find the beauty and good in the cold seasons is much easier with someone else doing it with you. You don't have to suffer through it, and you don't need to be embarrassed about depression — that goes for depression in general, not just SAD. God gave us our social circles so that we can share — whether sharing a cup of hot cocoa (COVID- and flu-safe, of course), or commiserating on the short days with the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. Find your friends. It may seem overly simplistic, but find them and take in the winter months together. God made sure there's plenty to be found.