Preparing for Winter Blue


The Formidable Enemy of Winter: "Winter Blue"

Have you ever felt down during winter? This state is known as the “Winter Blue” and can be experienced by anyone. However, according to Dr. Desan, the Director of the Winter Depression Research Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, Winter Blue can potentially lead to more serious illnesses, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gaberas states that the primary cause of Winter Blue is the lack of sunlight from autumn to winter. Shorter daylight hours lead to a deficiency in serotonin, a brain chemical deeply involved in stabilizing the mind, making it harder to control emotions and mood. Many working adults leave for work in the dark, spend the entire day in the office, and return home in the dark. Such a lifestyle negatively impacts people’s minds and can highly contribute to the Winter Blues.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5% of adults in the United States experience SAD, with women being affected three times more than men. Additionally, while many cases of SAD are triggered by Winter Blues, those undergoing various other stresses with the change of seasons need to be especially cautious.

In Japan, winter is just around the corner. This newsletter will explore various ways to prepare for Winter Blues, researching how to healthily navigate the end of the year with shorter daylight hours.

Winter is coming. Here's how to spot — and treat — signs of seasonal depression (npr)


Overcoming Winter with Hygge

For those who dislike the cold or are already longing for summer, why not adopt a “winter-enjoyment mindset” as preparation against the Winter Blues?

I spent the last year on a student exchange in Denmark and brought back an essential aspect of their culture: HYGGE. HYGGE, a significant value and mindset in Danish, means “coziness.” The Danes I lived with in the dormitory were adept at creating this cozy atmosphere, setting up the living room in the evening with music or baking cookies. They seemed to manage Winter Blues well through these small lifestyle tweaks.

HYGGE is about adding simple changes to life to enjoy winter. For example, why not create a HYGGE space in your home? Lay plenty of blankets, and read a book while watching the snow fall outside the window. Just imagining it can be exciting. You can also try uplifting sounds and scents. Studies have shown that the scents of lavender and vanilla have a relaxing effect on most people. The visual aspect of flames can also be relaxing, so lighting candles is recommended.

While enjoying time alone is good, HYGGE shared with others is even better. Clinical psychologist Pauline Wallin states that social connections and gratitude are among the most important factors proven to correlate with happiness. Taking long walks with loved ones, cooking for family and friends, or enjoying a warm pot around the table can be Japan’s version of HYGGE. Sharing meals together enhances social bonds, happiness, and satisfaction.

The high happiness index in Nordic countries despite harsh weather conditions is partly due to lifestyles like HYGGE. It’s a challenging time of the year, but let’s stay positive.

Practicing hygge can help you beat the 'winter blues': Here's how (abc NEWS)

Three Elements of Building the Body

As November ends, we feel the onset of winter. Here, I’d like to introduce methods for combating the lack of sunlight, a primary cause of Winter Blues, along with diet and exercise strategies.

In Northern Europe, where daylight hours are short, ‘light therapy’ using artificial light similar to sunlight is widely adopted. Recently, there are many stylishly designed lights that fit into home interiors and multifunctional ones that adjust the intensity according to wake-up time. In Sweden, schools have even introduced light therapy to improve student performance.

If light therapy is not an option, diet and exercise are immediately implementable alternatives. In winter, foods rich in Vitamin D are recommended, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and soy. In Nordic countries, the use of supplements is common, with Vitamin D supplements recommended for all adults in Iceland.

Exercise has been proven to contribute to happiness with just 30 minutes of walking three times a week. The VR fitness market is also expanding, with popular rhythm games like ‘Beat Saber‘ and diverse activities like boxing, dancing, and HIIT in ‘FitXR. VR fitness could be a new option for winter exercise. Combining these strategies can help prepare for a comfortable winter.

10 tips for beating the winter blues (IOWA)

How We Maintain a Consistant Routine?

Waking up in winter can be tough. The decrease in daylight during winter affects our internal clocks and the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences sleep.

Moreover, despite the longer hours of darkness, sleep disorders tend to worsen in winter. A survey of 2,000 American adults revealed that SAD can cause feelings of indifference, general dissatisfaction, and loneliness. These feelings can lead to prolonged time in bed, yet 48% of people do not get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can further lead to mood declines, stress, anxiety, and loss of concentration, trapping one in a negative cycle.

Maintaining a consistent routine across seasons is crucial. For those struggling with this, sunrise alarm clocks are a solution.

The Telegraph article introduces several light-equipped alarm clocks ideal for winter mornings. The light from the clock gradually brightens over time, simulating a natural sunrise, and gently waking you up. These clocks not only mimic the color of the morning sun but also focus on the sound for the alarm.

Currently waking up to the default iPhone alarm, I’m considering this as an opportunity to improve my mornings.

The best sunrise alarm clocks of 2023, to help you wake up as naturally as the dawn (The Telegraph)