Art as Medicine: How to Combat the Winter Blues
While most people look forward to winter holidays and family gatherings, there are plenty of folks who dread the colder months due to their tendency to bring on the winter blues—a type of depression that results from reduced sunlight in the fall and winter months. If you’re one of the millions suffering from the winter blues, don’t despair! There are simple, inexpensive ways to get your creative juices flowing again, even if you don't think of yourself as an artist!
The Science of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that comes on in the winter months when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. It’s caused by a lack of sunlight, which can affect our mood, energy levels, and concentration. Symptoms of SAD include low energy, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, irritability, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and feelings of hopelessness.
The lack of sunlight affects our serotonin levels in our brain, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood. It also reduces our body’s production of melatonin, which is important for healthy sleep patterns. When these two chemicals are out of balance, it can lead to an increase in SAD symptoms, which can have a snowball effect on our mood and behavior.
The lack of sunlight during the day also affects our body's circadian rhythm, the body's internal clock, which regulates several biological processes each day. When your circadian rhythm is off you can experience daytime sleepiness, decreased alertness, and problems with memory and decision-making.
Even in warmer areas of the country SAD can have an impact simply due to the shorter day's impact on our circadian rhythm.
SAD is not just a mood, a chemical change is happening in your brain.
Here's a surprising fact: SAD doesn't only happen in colder months. It's less common but believe it or not, Summer depression is a thing. It's referred to as "reverse SAD" and begins in Spring, lasting about 5 months until the temps drop.
How You Can Use Art to Combat SAD
There is a way to combat these winter blues – art! Studies have shown that art activities are an effective way to boost your mood and help alleviate symptoms of SAD. Drawing or painting, sculpting, coloring and other creative pursuits can help raise your spirits and make the winter months more bearable.
When we create something, we get a dose of dopamine and endorphins which are neurotransmitters that stimulate feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. The creative process also helps us refocus our attention away from negative thoughts and emotions, allowing us to relax and escape for a while. Art can also be a great way to express emotions, which has been proven to ease depression and reduce anxiety.
Tips for Success
Draw daily! Keep track of your drawings with a habit tracker, (or the SDD Sketchpad!) and share it on social media with the Simple Daily Drawing group for accountability!
Create an art routine. Do your artwork at the same time, every day.
Use a trigger. Piggyback this daily drawing habit with a habit that's already established in your life. Morning coffee? Nightly devotional? Daily run? Find something in your life that you do every day without thinking, and start creating your daily art right before, or right after this activity. You'll be amazed at how fast art becomes a daily habit!
Claim your space. Whether it's in the corner of your bedroom, a kitchen table, or a desk in an art studio, lay claim on it right now. This is where you will draw, daily, without distractions, even for just 5 minutes.
Be active in the art community. It's not just you that's feeling the blues. Be sure to comment and like other community member's work. A little pat on the back, or high five can have more of an impact than you may think.
5 ‘Happy’ Winter Drawing Prompts
Draw yourself in a happier winter world - create an image of what your dream winter looks like and how it makes you feel.
Draw a seasonal object that is typically white, like a snowflake, but fill it with vibrant, bold colors.
Get your brain working, and use art to learn something new! Draw someone or something from another country’s culture during their traditional season- for example a Mexican drawing of Santa Muerte during Dia de los Muertos or even Mary during Christmastime in the Czech Republic.
Make a drawing series of images or phrases that you can post all over your home to help motivate yourself through the winter - something that helps you celebrate winter, or something that reminds you spring is right around the corner.
Co-draw. You need a partner for this one! Start with a blank page with the intention of drawing a happy little winter scene. You draw an object first, let your partner add to it, then it's your turn again, then back to your partner. Go on until you've filled the page! You're sure to get some great laughs out of this activity!
The winter months can be challenging for many of us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common issue faced by many during the winter season, and it can take a toll on our mental health.
Art can be a great way to lift your spirits and fill your days with meaningful activity. Simple Daily Drawing gives you daily drawing prompts all year long, and a community of thousands that are interpreting the prompts, and drawing daily. It's a fun and supportive community for artists of all levels.