Our View: Winter resolution: Don’t be a bear and hibernate

December 6, 2017 GMT

Winter blew in late Monday and many of us are complaining, “Well, now we’re stuck inside until spring.”

Let’s talk about that. Winter can be just as cool as other seasons.

Summer, fall and spring get their due as perfect times to be outside, but winter is maligned as a metaphor for melancholy, dreariness and death. There’s even a widely held belief that winter causes depression, via seasonal affective disorder. People attribute loss of energy, mood deterioration and depression to the season.

But what if that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy? We expect to be bummed out during winter, and so we are.

A study published last year in Clinical Psychological Science cast doubt on the validity of seasonal affective disorder. A survey of 34,294 U.S. adults found no link between winter and people’s depression symptoms. Geographical latitude and exposure to sunlight were also found to be unrelated to symptoms.

That isn’t to say you can’t still fall victim to symptoms of SAD. Mayo Clinic takes it seriously and offers this advice for treatment:

“It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.”

Still, many people use the seasonal change as justification to spend winter burrowed into hearth and couch. This year, we encourage you to break the cycle and take a look around. Whether it’s a leisurely snowshoe hike through Soldiers Field Park or a hair-raising straight line down Oh Chute at Coffee Mill Ski Hill in Wabasha, live a little. Hang out in the Peace Plaza even without an ice bar event. Redden your cheeks with effort and icy air.

It’s a good cold we get here, too. Bitter, breathtaking and dry. The kind of cold wind that can suck the air from your body with a blast. The kind of air that reminds you you’re alive.

The bears of this world are asleep in some dirty cave during our winter recreating. The woods are left to us, and it’s our job to bear witness to the stillness they exhibit on a snowy day. The way snowflakes refract light and sparkle under cloudless skies. How enough of them can bend a tree branch to their will.

This winter, take time to venture forth and see the world as it is when it’s frozen. It’s worth the trouble of bundling up, and it may just improve your spirits.