The Winter Blues

How I learned to live with it

A few weeks ago, on a hot and humid Friday, I rode my bike around town looking for garage sales.  The sun was high in the sky and I could feel the warmth of it generously bathing my skin.

Following garage sales signs pointing to an address I finally saw the open garage with various items set up for sale.  I peddled to the mouth of the garage, stopped and parked my bike.

The homeowner, sitting inside the garage smiled and greeted me.  “Nice day for a ride,” he said.

“Yes, it is,” I smiled back.  “I am enjoying every moment of the sunshine before the long and dark winter begins.”

“My wife always complains about the long, dark winter.  Every year,” he said sounding a tad annoyed.  “You sound like her.”

“It’s a serious problem for a lot of people,” I responded kindly but assertively.

“Yea, well…” he said, not knowing how to respond to that.

I sensed that he really didn’t understand the seriousness of how the long winters affect many people and so I used the opportunity to educate, for his wife’s sake. “Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real disorder.  I have had it since a child.  But only really understood it when I was much older.  Now that I know what it is I can prepare for it.”

He looked at me puzzled so I went on, “long stretches of darkness from lack of sun, like we have here in the Midwest, can seriously cause depression for a lot of people.  Over the years I have studied it, actually written articles about it and spend the fall adjusting to it so that I am not as deeply affected by it as I used to be.”

“Oh,” he said, “my wife works as an x ray technician at the hospital.  For years she has complained that she works in total darkness and then she comes home in the winter and drives home in darkness.  She complains all the time.”

“That’s so hard,” I said, my heart heavy for her, “that’s got to be so terrible.  She has a right to complain.  But there are things she can do…”

I went on to explain some of the things she can do to cope with the long winter darkness.

As I peddled away from the sale, my saddlebags still empty for lack of any purchases, I felt very grateful for stopping at that sale.  I hope I helped the woman and maybe even their marriage in the process.  It was clear that the man had a deeper appreciation and understanding of his wife’s long-standing complaints.  Hopefully he’ll help her to manage the winter blues and be more understanding.

When I was a little girl, maybe around 12-years-old, I remember when Fall arrived I looked at the magnificent colors on the leaves of the giant trees gracing my neighborhood and felt a sense of dread.  I suppose looking back at it, subconsciously, my body and mind knew from enough winters that the long darkness was approaching.  While I wanted to enjoy all the beauty of the season I just didn’t.  I knew that my attitude wasn’t right but couldn’t explain it to myself, let alone the adults in my life.

As the veil of darkness slowly descended on my world my sadness grew.  Instinctively, during the blanket of black in January and February I would spend days when the sun shined through our windows laying beneath it, feeling the glow of the sun fill my body with faint hope.

Fast forward to my late 20’s I somehow, somewhere learned that lack of sun affects many people.  Vitamin D, vital to our bodies, is only available largely from the sun.  I also learned that other people suffered with the same depression I did in the winter.  In my late 20’s I started writing for local newspapers as a freelance reporter and somehow learned about Season Affective Disorder or simply and appropriately nicknamed, SAD.

By my late 30’s I was learning to make myself a bit more of a priority and was becoming more conscious of my body, mind and emotions.  By now, nearing my 50’s I have come a long way and have a way of life I have set up for myself that helps me to cope with and even make the best of the long winters that affect me.  I will share with you here what I do in the hopes it helps you too or any of your loved ones that get the winter blues:

  1. I purchased full spectrum lights and have them in all my light fixtures.
  2. I purchased two light boxes that I set up by my work areas and relaxation spaces and turn on and sit in front of at least 15 minutes a day.
  3. I painted all of my walls in my house bright; cheerful colors such as yellow, lilac, light green and blue.
  4. I take 5000 ml. of vitamin D a day on days when I am not out in the sun at least one hour a day.
  5. I make sure to have at least five servings of vegetables a day, mindful that at least two servings are dark greens.
  6. I exercise every day in some way.  In the winter months walking outside, especially when there is snow, isn’t an option for me.  So in the mornings I go to my local mall (it opens for walkers at 7 a.m.) and I walk there.  The high ceilings and bright space is an added bonus.
  7. I meditate every day.
  8. I post positive affirmations around my house.  Some have been: I am enjoying the wintertime, I am a happy person, I laugh every day, I am joyous.
  9. I try and get at least seven hours of sleep.
  10. I drink a lot of water.
  11. I don’t drink alcohol (this contributes to depression).

Well, that’s it.  I hope this helps any of you who have a hard time during the winter like I did.  You are important!  To be at your best for everyone else in your life please take care of you!

Learn more about SAD at: or many other web sites.

Always in love,

Sandy Kamen Wisniewski