Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Beating the winter blues

For many, hibernation is only known as the power-saving state of your laptop but for us it recently was a fact of life we reluctantly had to submit ourselves to for months. The winter blues really hit us hard this time. The dark moods are finally moving over now that the days are again longer than the nights and we have every now and then been blessed with sunshine and mild spring temperatures.

Daylight saving time was taken into use here last weekend. This is very late for someone to wake up from their winter beauty sleep. In fact, I consulted my calendar and saw that last year we had brightened up a month earlier and by this time we had already completed refurbishing the study. Now we have only just reached spirits high enough to start working on our first spring project the upstairs sauna.

The melancholy was accompanied by a general disinclination towards any endeavours other than those you simply couldn’t escape, and sometimes even those seemed to be hard to handle. I dare say we also suffered from social withdrawal leaving the house only a couple of times weekly, often unwillingly because we had to go to the grocery or had a thing or two to take care of. My husband was brave enough to take his walk rather regularly but I’m ashamed to confess I sometimes stayed indoors for days if the weather was particularly unfriendly.

Is this the way for a fit and sane couple being fully their own masters to spend the winter? Far from it! I’ve been wondering why this winter in particular was so gloomy for us bringing more severe symptoms associated with winter blues than any earlier cold season.

Of course, we had a long, dark and weary autumn as we got proper snow only in January. However, there were more important reasons. Firstly, in addition to being free from any parental duties as our children are grown-ups and have lived on their own for years, we are now free from any professional and other permanent duties, too. There is nothing we absolutely have to do daily, which leaves us completely exposed to the tiring effects of the short days and the freezing temperatures. Who would not feel tempted to stay buried under the blankets through that when it is finally possible?

Secondly, we have noticed that the older you get the more you suffer from the cold and especially from the lack of sunlight. Scientists claim people living in the North become to some extent acclimatised but as far as we are concerned, our symptoms have increased during the years.

These two reasons imply a third one: with age living ‘in the hinterland’ is no longer healthy for your spirits during winter but will add to the misery. However, there is a discrepancy here: a house in the country will also add to the bliss of the summer season. Nevertheless, if we wish to maintain a certain level of efficiency throughout the year we may need to draw some conclusions one fine day soon.

Until then, there are ways to tackle the dilemma. As I’m not at all confident about my chances of ever growing a serious interest in exercise, which is known to be of help in your battle against winter blues, we must introduce bright light therapy to our daily routine next winter. The initial dose is 30 minutes each morning but later a mere 15-minute scheduled exposure to bright light daily should clear away your melancholy.

I suppose the only other way for us to cope with the coming winters here would be to learn to accept the natural rhythm of life on Earth, respect the circadian clock and just willfully hibernate like our good old Jack. As much as I love and appreciate nature, I don’t think I would voluntarily agree to offer that much potential to be thrown away.


  1. I was most interested in this very honest post. Living in Scotland conditions are not nearly as extreme as yours but I do find winter difficult some of the time. I designated February as my writing month a few years ago and that has helped enormously - I now look forward to February!. A 'Lumie' light for waking up naturally has also been good. I wonder if you have tried the daylight therapy this year? Wishing you happiness for the rest of winter..wonderful photographs.

    1. We did buy a bright light lamp last winter with little effect. I wrote about it here: Last winter was the worst for me ever. This one seems to be better even though we haven't had snow yet, except for a very thin layer that fell today.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences so honestly. I come here by way of my bloggy friend Freda who commented above. I am from Australia where we don't experience snowy, dark winters like this and I know that I have a somewhat romanticised, fantasy version of a "proper" winter in my mind. My love of cloudy days has become deep seated given that it is easier on my eyes, which in turn fuels this fantasy. But I can still see that months of this would indeed be difficult emotionally and physically. I had a glimpse of cold weather in our week in Iceland in autumn - I noticed that I do have more energy in cooler weather as long as I am warm in my clothes and have a warm cafe/building to retreat to regularly! I can see though that that would wear off if one were exposed to it all the time. I know how trapped I can feel here in the height of summer heat, when it's too hot and bright to go out in the middle of the day and one must clock watch until the time is right to venture outdoors. My tolerance of heat is lessening as I get older! Anyway, I really appreciate your honesty in this post and shall now enjoy browsing your blog some more. Best wishes from Australia.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. In my younger years I didn't have that much difficulty taking the winter season. When you are young, have a job to go to, kids to take care of and other duties structuring your timetable each day winter even around here is not that bad. It's when you've started to gain age and no longer go to the office daily that the dark season starts to hit you hard. At least that's what happened to me and hubby.
      I visited your site. What wonderful photos you are posting! I must have a closer look one of these days!