Ah, the winter blues. Also known as seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder and winter depression.
Cutting to the chase, it’s hard and it sucks. It is hard to put the breaks on the mental downward spiral of your emotions falling down the abyss of darkness because the sun has gone away and temperatures have dropped.
I moved from a very warm and sunny year-round climate into a more northern one with actual seasons. The first few weeks of my first winter were an adventure, but one that I could be happy and excited about. But after the holiday season, that’s when I got kicked in the head and those emotions began to tumble out of control. I barely made it out of my first winter in one, sane piece.
The next winter I tried to prepare myself. I bought a better winter wardrobe, had repainted the walls to warmer colors, had changed my diet and was exercising more. Again, I made it through the holiday season and then I tripped and fell into my blankets and hot water bottles and stayed there.
And then the third winter came, and just as the old saying goes, “third time’s the charm!”. This is when lessons in the more pagan lifestyles really began to manifest for me.
The sun officially “goes to sleep” by the autumn equinox (in September) and the dark half of the year really starts to make itself noticeable. The Celts and pagans had a really great way deal with this diminishing sunlight, and psychologically it has been the best medicine I could have asked for.
- The sun has gone to bed, so the yang energy that has been abundant and wearing you down with external activity is finally leaving you. Now it’s time to wave goodbye to it and welcome the yin energy and work with internal activity, since you’ll most likely be spending more time indoors anyway. I always picture friends coming for a visit and doing all sorts of outdoor activities, then waving them goodbye and sitting on the couch with a book and some tea with a warm, fuzzy pet curled up at my side. I’ve enjoyed the visit with the friends, and now am enjoying the visit with myself.
- Darkness is the natural balance to the Light, and it is NOT INHERENTLY EVIL. Darkness simply IS and has so much to teach you. Once you realize that what you cannot see with your eyes is not all evil and begin to trust your other senses more, the dark will be less scary and imposing. You’ll lighten your load as you begin to find the dark mysterious and comforting, peaceful and wise. For far too long fear has been spread about the unknown darkness, and I truly believe it’s because we have evolved to rely too heavily on just our eyes. The darkness challenges you in a way that the light cannot, and having to work harder emotionally and psychologically is not easy, and most people shy away from this. If it is “too much work”, it gets labelled as “wrong”, “bad” and “evil”. Silly humans, there is light in the darkness, but not the kind you can see with your eyes. It’s the kind you have to feel with your heart and soul. So if anything the dark makes you have to start trusting those more, and there is nothing wrong with that.
- More parties! After the autumn equinox in September, there’s another celebration coming up – Samhain! And after that? Yule! Another you say? Yes! Imbolc! Almost every other month, there is something to celebrate, and something to look forward to.
- On Yule, the sun is “born again”. So technically, from that day out, the sun’s time in the sky each day increases. So when the cold weather is blowing and the snow continues to fall, and even if you can’t see the sun through the clouds, look up and know that it’s there a little longer and a little stronger each day!
- There is beauty in the darkness and the cold and snow. You have to remind yourself to look for it. How many shades of grey do you notice in the clouds? Do you still hear children laughing as they play outside, regardless of the weather? How many birds or other animals do you notice? How is the snow falling and staying? Are there any early blooms yet? Is the sun through the fog creating mists and shadows or little glimmers and lights?
I hope these tips and tricks can help you next time around the winter blues start taking over your head and heart. I know it’s not easy, but you can do it! There is light in the darkness and darkness in the light, you just have to remind yourself it’s there and smile at it. Nature is not evil, it simply is. So there is no reason whatsoever to try to classify the natural darkness as if it’s out to get you. If anything, it’s out to bring you balance, wisdom, and if you’re really paying attention, love.