The feelings at this time of year that leave many of us with a sense of sadness, emptiness, loneliness, and even depression are referred to as the “winter blues” – but they are also called the “holiday blues.”
These winter/holiday blues suppress the immune system. As you will see, to cure the winter/holiday blues and restore the health of your immune system, it is important to realize they are actually two different phenomena.
Winter Blues – Caused by Lack of Physical Light
Technically, and physiologically, the saddest day of the year is December 21, winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight hours. It is a scientific fact that when sunlight shines in your eyes, it transmits a signal in the brain to make serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. Serotonin is known as the “feel-good” hormone. Less sunlight in each day results in lower levels of serotonin in the brain, this correlates with feelings of sadness, isolation, and irritability – a blue mood. Sunlight is also needed for the production of Vitamin D, which is produced by the action of sunlight on the skin.
Holiday Blues – Caused by a Lack of Spiritual Light
Many people claim that mid January is actually the saddest time of the year. This is the result of the holiday blues – an emotional letdown that follows the holidays. Margaret Stump, a licensed family and marriage counselor with the Mayo Clinic health system, says that holiday blues are a result of people’s exceedingly high expectations of what Christmas should be. “With such high expectations,” Stump says, “it is easy to feel we are not meeting them, and this involves a great cost to one’s emotional well-being.” People seek the perfect Christmas of childhood dreams.
In reality, the holidays stir up feelings of grief, loss, and disappointment. We grieve the past loss of loved ones. We feel the disappointment caused by life’s toils – family disputes, separations, serious illness, financial worries, etc. We feel sadness caused by unmet expectations. This becomes acute over the Christmas season, a time of high expectations.
The Perfect Christmas – When All Expectations Were Met
True Christmas is about high expectations, but it is also about the joy of having those expectations met and exceeded. Is this possible? Absolutely! This is the story of the perfect Christmas.
There were high expectations – God had told an oppressed nation, through the prophet Isaiah, He would come and be with them. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” For more than 700 years before the birth of Jesus, that nation waited. Then it happened exactly as God said it would.
God with us declared, “I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)
Light is fascinating because it is one of the least tangible of all the physical phenomena. Compare light to the equally familiar senses of sound and smell. Sound is a wave, which propagates by rippling through the air. These vibrations are transferred to the bones of the middle ear, which produce the sensation of sound. Smell is caused by tiny, airborne particles that lodge into smell receptors sites in the cells of your nose, which are then recognized by the brain.
Light is different from sound and smell in that it seemingly has no physical properties whatsoever, even though we can observe its effects. It is a wave, but it does not need a medium in which to wave. It is a particle, but takes up no space. Light is ethereal, intangible. For this reason, physical light often serves as a metaphor for spirituality. Spiritual light is the type of light that enlightens your soul. Spiritual light is wisdom. Spiritual light brings joy.
Tips to Overcome Seasonal Blue Moods
You cannot will yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season. You feel the way you feel. But, you can do the things that create happiness and joy. By doing them, you will dissipate your feelings of sadness.
Exercise. An aerobic exercise every day has proven to provide multiple benefits for your health, your immune system, and your mood. Get plenty of physical activity. A brisk twenty to thirty minute walk outdoors will do wonders for your mood.
Reach out. Help someone else. Do something radically nice for others in need. The more time and effort it takes on your part, the more joy and happiness you will receive by doing it. Figuring out where to start will make the project more meaningful. There are always shelters that need help serving meals over the holidays. There are always children that will be without a present for Christmas. There are military families that are having difficulties that need help. Pitch in and be a part of the lives of those who are going through difficult times.
Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Don’t go overboard on sweets and unhealthy food and drinks.
Accept the gift given to you by Emmanuel. He said: “I will be with you always.” Always means always – now, in the darkness of tonight, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. You have no valid reason to feel sad and lonely. The very creator of the universe, the source of infinite love, the one who knows your deepest needs has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Instill that thought into your heart. Dwell upon it.
Accept the promise. God gives us many promises. You can rely on God’s word. You can trust in it. As Joshua says (Joshua 23:14), “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” God says (Joel 2:25), “I will return to you the years the locusts have eaten.” God is able to restore you both physically and spiritually. All he asks, is that you return to him and believe he is able to do exceedingly more than all you can ask or can imagine. He can restore your health, he can restore relationships that seem lost forever, he can restore your finances. There is nothing outside of his sovereign control. He promises to give you a peace that passes all understanding.
One thing about the winter solstice, it is a point from which things can only get lighter.