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EDITORIAL HEADLINE Sabrina Almeida

Are you feeling the winter blues?

Sabrina Almeida

Felt really down in the dumps this Monday? You’re not the only one! The colder and darker days of winter have a depressing effect on several people.  Some even consider ‘Blue Monday’, the third Monday in January, to be the saddest day of the year. However, there is no scientific proof to back this notion.

Behavioural psychologists say it’s the dreary weather that brings on the gloominess. So, your Monday blues could be attributed to Mother Nature and it being the first day of the work week, perhaps?

Reduced levels of natural sunlight during this frigid season are believed to be the primary cause of this glum feeling. After all, seven o’clock sunrises and five o’clock sunsets can dampen even the cheeriest of dispositions.

Sunlight plays a crucial role in regulating cortisol, serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain. Increased amounts on account of less daylight are responsible for making us sleepy and lethargic. That’s why healthcare experts say that a walk in the sunlight can make a huge difference to our mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that typically occurs in fall and winter when there is less light, is another reason that individuals may feel dejected during this time. Still, this condition is not limited to or heightened the third Monday of January. Patients with SAD are said to experience symptoms for around 40% of the year.

The idea that the highest number of suicides occur on Blue Monday is also incorrect. Studies show that suicide rates can peak slightly in spring and summer (seasons we like) but generally remain the same throughout the year. Suicide is not seasonal.

That being said it’s a good time as any to have a conversation about mental illness. Mental health advocates want us to know that there is a difference between ‘feeling a little down’ which doesn’t prevent us from enjoying life and not being able to get out of bed or isolating one’s self from others for long periods of time. That’s why anyone experiencing even the mildest forms of depression associated with the winter blues is urged to see their primary care physician.

Don’t brush off the sadness or think it is something that you have to tough out on your own.  While it’s normal to feel down some days, persistent feelings of hopelessness, changes in eating and sleeping habits and not being able to take part in activities you typically enjoy are warning signs.

Where did the concept of Blue Monday come from? It is alleged that the creators were just looking to line their pockets. The origins trace back to a PR campaign by a travel agency to increase trip sales. And it seems to have worked as many Canadians (and North Americans) still look for a winter escape.  That might also explain why the rates for all-inclusive vacations in tropical places peak at this time.

According to another school of thought, credit card bills for all the holiday spending also arrive in January which could cause us to be depressed. Inability to pay bills and the consequent financial stress can have a negative impact on our mood and mental health.

Although winter blues may not be a medical condition, research by the Canadian Mental Health Association shows 15% of Ontarians experience them. This is separate from SAD, a serious form of depression that affects 2% of the population. Another also survey showed that more than 50% of Canadian workers are negatively impacted by winter with 25% saying January was saddest month.

Spending more time outdoors on sunny days, modifying indoor environments to maximize natural light, exercising and eating well are good ways to raise spirits and stay positive during winter. But if the depression persists get professional help! -CINEWS

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