Battling the Winter Blues


Winter is here with all its blustering beauty and New Yorkers hardly resemble the carefree sun-kissed, outdoor brunch-ers they were in early fall.

Personally, I can really only appreciate the few hours after a nighttime snowfall, the white powder blanketed across the silent streets, crunching beneath your feet before the morning sun turns the crystal mounds into messy wet slush and slippery ice.  Other than an occasional peaceful snow, the winter leaves me, and many New Yorkers, drearily longing for sunshine and warmth.

After I get off the F train, climb up two flights of steep stairs and feel the cold chill hit me on the dark sidewalk my only concern is to hurry home. The icy streets, filled with dark winter jackets, heavy boots and oversized hats and scarves bustle to warm destinations, shielded from the freezing temperatures.  The thought of spontaneously going across town to pick up my favorite Indian food or hit up some bars with friends sounds way less attractive then rushing home to hibernate.

My bedroom radiator might run too hot but once I’m indoors for the night I’m not braving the freezing weather for anybody.  As my window squeals from angry gusts of wind outside, I long for the time I can leave my apartment again without calculated layers to protect me from the cold.

Apart from the frigid air, the darkness is a main contributor to the depression, withdraw and lack of desire to stay active.  The sun is now setting at 4:30 giving us only nine hours of light a day.  Overcast, gray, dismal light, that is.  It takes a strong, motivated person to happily wake up to a cold dark room and excitedly embark on a new day.  I am not that person.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is found in 9.7 percent of the population of New Hampshire with only 1.4 percent of Florida, according to epidemiological studies. Those with a history of SAD have an increased amount of nocturnal melatonin released during the winter months.  This is much like the melatonin released from hibernating animals that curl up in a dark hole for months at a time.  Our bodies desperately try to release melatonin to get us through the darkened months, but sometimes we’re stuck in a dreary winter funk.

Don’t get too “SAD”, there is good news for those feeling blue this winter. The winter solstice lands on Dec. 21st, which marks the shortest day of sunlight for the year and after that, days will only be getting longer.  Although the cold weather might not let up for a few months our days will be seeing more sunlight.  By mid-March we will have sunlight until 7 pm.

When spring arrives, women break out their favorite dresses and sandals, restaurants throw out their sidewalk seating and a spring in New Yorkers step is reborn.  We walk slow, take time to breathe and might just even make a little eye contact with one another.  Instead of rushing home to our caves like we do in the winter, we might take the long way home to get some exercise or go an extra few blocks for a cold treat, walk in the park or some street shopping.

Our rough and tough caveman descendents surely had to beat the winter months by crawling into a dark cave filled with food, after storing extra body fat during the fall.  Call me a cavewoman, but when I’m walking to my apartment and the frigid blasts of wind are chilling me to the bone that is exactly what I want to do- make it home to a warm blanket and a heavy soup.  Wake me up in March.