Winter doesn't make you depressed

I went for a run this morning after checking my trusty weather app. I must’ve been holding my phone upside-down because literally in the middle of my run the clouds burst open and threw down a good 20 minutes of solid rain until I was nicely soaked through.

I’m not sure why I bothered to check the weather app because running in the rain is actually something I love. Maybe it’s because I allow some extra smugness to sneak in afterwards - not only did I run, but I ran in the rain!

For a small percentage of folk, winter doesn’t signal the joy of running in the rain, hot soup, or fleecy track pants. Instead it’s the expectation that they’ll soon experience the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

It’s referred to as winter depression. As winter approaches, the mornings start later and the evenings begin earlier, so there is less sunlight each day. Symptoms may include feeling anxious, worthless, stressed, indecisive, irritable, and/or lethargic. Pretty yuck.

My research to find out more about the “disorder” (unfortunate label), uncovered more unknowns than knowns. More theories than causal relationships.

The one consistent “known” is the impact that reduced daylight can have on our circadian rhythm. But gosh, there are many factors that impact our circadian rhythm including the modern lighting in our house, the light from technology devices, and long haul flights.

What lens are you wearing?

My home office is long and narrow with a full length window at one end. It’s a natural bushland outlook that changes as the seasons do. In winter I see bright green moss start to gather on the sandstone steps. The star jasmine vine still climbs the wall but it is flowerless. I imagine it preparing itself to soon burst open with hundreds of tiny white flowers with their dizzying aroma. Rain gathers in small pools on the large rocks that provides natural baths for the abundant bird life. It’s a different season offering different pleasures.

Someone with SAD doesn’t see all that though. Why aren’t they seeing what I’m seeing?

Actually, they ARE seeing what I’m seeing but they’re not “processing” it the same way. They SEE all these things, but the message either doesn’t reach their brain, or isn’t processed into knowledge. They’re wearing a different lens. They look out and see flowerless vines, slippery cold steps, grey skies, and depressive blandness.

The difference is the lens we’re seeing winter through. It’s down to how we interpret what we see. I look out and see a beautiful day. My SAD friend looks out, interprets it as miserable, and as a result will probably have a pretty crap day.

How to love winter

The short answer. Change your lens. Choose to SEE and PROCESS the beauty that winter offers.

What else? Choose what you do. Winter doesn’t have power over you. You choose how you respond to winter. There is still sunlight. Open your blinds. Get outdoors. Do exercise. You could even run in the rain.