Minnesota winters can affect mental health

People struggle with seasonal depression all over the planet, but Minnesota winters amplify it

A Minnesota winter morning. Photo by: Katie Harff

Katie Harff

A Minnesota winter morning. Photo by: Katie Harff

Living in Minnesota doesn’t just mean you have to walk to your car with your arms folded across your chest and your head down as you try to stop the snow and harsh wind from pelting your body for the majority of the year.  You are also more susceptible to seasonal depression.

Seasonal depression behaves the same way as normal depression does, but individuals are only affected at certain times of the year, said Lisa Holien, who is the ISD 194 student services coordinator.

Research shows that sunlight is important for a healthy vitamin D intake, but Minnesota’s sun angle and time of day changes when winter hits, said Holien.

“We are definitely impacted more than other parts of the country,” Holien said.

Some people aren’t diagnosed with seasonal depression, but still are affected on a smaller scale by harsh Minnesota winters.

“With being from Minnesota, it’s kind of inevitable to feel down in the winter,” said Hayden Peters, a high school student who has lived in Minnesota her whole life.

It is hard to go without as much social interaction as there is in the summer because “everyone is cooped up in the winter,” Peters said.

Brooke Whitaker, a former California resident, also noticed the effects of Minnesota winters when she moved to Lakeville when she was 13. After being accustomed to temperatures in the mid 70’s everyday, the cold came as quite a shock for Whitaker.

“It’s harder waking up for school because it’s so dark and cold outside, and you feel really unmotivated to get out of bed,” Whitaker said.

Holien said seasonal depression is hard to prevent because it’s a brain disorder, but there are ways to minimize the symptoms.

“Lots of physical activity is good and making sure we are active in our social life is good along with getting adequate sleep,” Holien said.

Many Minnesotans develop their own methods to mentally survive winter.

Peters says she usually just goes and jams in her basement to avoid the cold.

Whitaker strives to make the best of it.

“Usually I try to cuddle on my couch by the fireplace with some coffee, and some friends and I try to forgot all of my problems of the outside world,” she said.

Seasonal depression and effects similar to it can occur no matter where an individual lives, but Minnesota winters comes with a price.

“You’re just in a darker mood than (you are in) summer,” Whitaker said.