The Benefits of Winter Weather on Mental Health

Guest post by Adam Durnham

Winter has always received a bad reputation when it comes to affecting people’s moods. However, there are still reasons why the winter season can also be good for one’s mental health.

Gloomy, dark, and cold–that’s how most people who dislike winter describe this seemingly long season.

Winters have always been known to be a mood-killer because of its lack of sunlight and its inevitable coldness that makes people stay indoors. There is, in fact, a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which affects some people during the fall and winter months.

Some of the signs include:

  • Decrease in energy
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping during the cold months
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Depressive moods

Although these are mostly associated during the winter season, SAD can happen to anyone at any time. Since it’s tied to environmental factors, there are some things that can be done such as light therapy, counselling, and joining support groups to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Not all people who suffer from the “winter blues” get SAD. The truth is, this is just one side of the coin–there’s also another side of winter that is beneficial to mental health.

Here are some of the reasons why the winter can also be beneficial to your mind and body:

Winter season is a time for holidays (at least in the northern hemisphere!)

According to an article from the New York Times, 20,000 people responded that they are naturally happier during the winter holidays. There is a reason. It’s called “Christmas spirit” – it’s because people naturally feel that giddiness when it’s time to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

The study shows that spending time with family and friends is a great predictor of happiness levels.

It gives a healthy distraction from the daily stresses of life – it takes away responsibilities for a while and enjoy the company of others.

Even something as simple as putting on decorations for the holidays can also have a great impact on one’s moods. Scientific studies say that people who take time to put up Christmas decorations in their home feel happier because of the bright lights and the colors associated with the holiday.

Although not all people have the luxury of putting up grand decorations, even a small tree and some simple lights can do the trick.

Winter season is a time for festive meals

Aside from celebrations of holidays with family and friends, there is another factor that makes winter season a booster for mental health–and that is the festive food!

Who would want to pass up the Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas ham, the pies, and all the sumptuous sides? It is no secret that food indeed makes us happy.

According to research, satisfying cravings in a healthy way affects the brain chemistry which releases happy hormones. What better way to boost these happy hormones than to celebrate with the people you love and eat the food that you love as well.

Although these festive meals can be great, it is also important to keep food intake in moderation during the holidays. It can be great to have that slice of cake, but don’t overdo it as the pounds that will pile up come January may dampen those happy moods as well.

The winter season is also a time for resolutions

Another way that the cold months helps in mental health is during New Year’s Resolutions. As a new year approaches, people often find themselves in a motivated state to adopt new habits and ditch some unhealthy ones.

Anecdotally, people usually start their gym membership or sign up for alcohol rehab, organize their homes, or start a healthy diet.

For some reason, that shift from the past year to the next gives people the psychological boost for people to be self-motivated.

If you are suffering from mental health concerns, you can use the winter months to think of habits you can change for the better. For example, you can start regular exercise, or start the year simply with a fresh perspective.

Although you can start these anytime, the winter season is good time as it happens during the first quarter of every year.

Winter also prevents irritability

This is something interesting, but there are theories that suggest that warm or hot weather also affects people’s moods negatively. Certain studies suggest there is a link between higher crime rates and increased aggression during the summer months.

The rationale behind this is that people usually get cranky and restless when the weather is hot. For example, when people are on the road during a hot day, they might be more prone to irritable behaviour.

Additionally, since the weather may be too cold at times, people may like to stay indoors and undertake low-energy activities that can help them relax and feel warm.

Winter is a season to try snow sports and activities

Winter is a fun time to try different snow activities. Sledding, building a snowman, iceskating, skiing, and visiting winter parks are some fun excursions that you can enjoy solo or with loved ones.

Before heading outside, be sure to bundle up to maximize the time you will be spending outdoors. Although many people will attest to despising snow, doing some fun activities in it once in a while can also boost your mood and energy levels. Since snow mostly reflects light coming from the daytime, it can also serve as a form of light therapy for those who are having depressive mood swings staying indoors during the winter months.

Winter is also a time for rest

In case anyone forgets, the winter months give your mental health a boost because it’s also a time for physical rest.

Most people are away during the holidays, which makes it possible for most employees to enjoy a couple of weeks for a well-deserved vacation.

You can spend this time to recharge and to set aside anything that puts pressure in your mind. Although it is fun to try some snow activities during the winter months, you can always spend time indoors just indulging on your favorite TV shows, having a quiet time with your pets, doing your hobbies, or even sleeping as time slowly passes by.

It’s all about perspective

Many sources will try to prove that winter is a terrible time for one’s mental health, but the bottom line is, it’s all about one’s perspective. As you look at these reasons, you may realize that winter can be just as helpful to your mental health as any other season.

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