Don’t Let the Winter Solstice Get You Down
Since sol means sun in Latin and stice comes from the Latin verb sistere, which means to stand or stop, the word solstice can mean that the sun stops or stands.
Not that the sun stands still during a solstice, of course, but for some, the winter solstice can seem like the sun and ordinary life are on pause.
Winter can mean cold weather and days with less sunlight. Cold, dark weather might negatively affect people and contribute to a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People might be bored or restless because they aren’t doing the things they’d do during warmer, brighter weather.
People might also drink alcohol or use drugs to deal with wintertime depression or boredom. If they use these substances regularly for those purposes, they could become dependent or addicted.
But there are healthier ways to face the solstice and the season. They include:
Yes, it’s cold, but time outdoors can help you soak up the few rays of sunlight the winter season has to offer. Researchers have found that people exposed to low levels of sunlight had a greater risk of experiencing cognitive (intellectual) problems.
During cold weather, dress warmly with light layers of clothing, hats, and mittens. When Fahrenheit temperatures are zero or below, or if the cold triggers a medical condition, please stay inside.
Exercising outdoors or near sunny windows can help boost us feel better in many ways. Performing activities that raise heart rates and build muscles can improve our muscle tone and moods.
Some cold weather outdoor exercises include walking, hiking, skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. Indoor activities could include in-person or online fitness classes and recorded workouts.
Using bright light therapy
Bright light therapy (light therapy) is another way to treat seasonal affective disorder. It uses bright lamps sometimes known by other names, including happy lamps or happy lights, to supplement the sunlight lost during the winter.
One study found that 61% of people with SAD experienced reduced levels of depression when they used bright light therapy, and other studies indicate that light therapy appears to be a promising treatment for mental illnesses.
Celebrating the solstice
Throughout history, many cultures have celebrated the winter and summer solstices. Their commemorations have honored literal changes of the seasons as well as more intangible changes, such as new beginnings.
Stonehenge is one example of humanity’s enduring interest in such times. Standing in the English countryside for thousands of years, this collection of stones is believed to mark the winter and summer solstices.
Not interested in getting together with your friends and grouping Stonehenge-like rocks that weigh thousands of pounds? Consider getting together anyway and participating in more normal kinds of activities.
Studies have found that social isolation can contribute to depressive symptoms. Meeting safely with friends in person or online can keep our social networks strong and ward off negative feelings during winter or any other time of year.
Winter can be rough on our bodies and our psyches. But there’s always the prospect of warmer weather and better times.
medlineplus.gov – Seasonal Affective Disorder
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Depression & Addiction: How One Can Easily Affect the Other
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Effect of Sunlight Exposure on Cognitive Function Among Depressed and Non-Depressed Participants: A REGARDS Cross-Sectional Study
healthysd.gov – Physical Activity & Colder Weather
uofmhealth.org – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
heart.org – How to Stay Active in Cold Weather
fammed.wisc.edu – Bright Light Therapy: A Non-Drug Way to Treat Depression and Sleep Problems
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Bright Light Therapy: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond
britannica.com – 7 Winter Solstice Celebrations from Around the World
english-heritage.org.uk – Solstice
thedartmouth.com – Winter Is Coming: Coping with Seasonal Depression
nature.com – Depressive Symptoms Are Associated with Social Isolation in Face-to-Face Interaction Networks
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