I know I can't be the only person who suffers with the winter blues; also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). As the days got shorter I just wanted to curl up into a ball and wish the days away until they started getting longer again. And now we have had the shortest day (Winter solstice December 22nd) - and I know the days are getting longer - but it still feels like a long journey ahead.
Also, did you know there is a day in January called "Blue Monday"? Typically it is the 3rd Monday of January, this year (2024) it is on January 15th. It started back in 2005, with a scientific formula dreamed up by a travel company; it is said to be linked to the time after Christmas and New Years when you get over the excitement and start getting back to normal. On the plus side, there is an International Day of Happiness, on March 20th, so pop that in your calendar.
Living with SAD's isn't easy, the hardest part for me initially was recognising I had it. Once you do start to recognise the signs, what can you do to make the days easier?
I have a blue light that I can use when I feel really drained or fatigued. I also turn to my family and friends to try and keep me busy, but on days, when there's no one about but myself, I make myself go out with my camera and go for a walk.
Fresh air and real daylight can make a huge difference, even on a rainy day. Yes, there are some mornings when it is harder than others; but I know once I'm out I'm much happier.
Taking my camera stops it feeling weird that I'm "just going for a walk" and it helps to keep my mind busy looking for things to photograph rather than brooding on something that may keep my mood low.
I've spoken to lots of people who find this time of year harder, most of them say getting outdoors helps them. Some go for a brisk walk, others go for a run, but all feel some kind of benefit.
To inspire you to get out with your camera and avoid the winter blues - here are my top tips for photography in the winter months.
1. Wrap up warm, wear sensible footwear and take some pocket hankies with you (I always get the sniffles). I also take a plastic bag with me as I know I'm likely to want to be kneeling on the floor to get low angle photos.
2. Make sure your camera/phone is fully charged - in the cold weather batteries die quicker. I take a spare battery with me in my pocket to keep it warm. If you are using your phone keep it in a warm pocket until you are ready to take a photo.
3. Take your time, don't feel desperate that you need to take a photo. See what catches your eye; in the darkest of the winter months, when things are dormant, look for interesting shapes, textures and colours, maybe moody or bright skies, perhaps reflections in a puddle of water, or look for small details that might be more abstract. (And remember, if you run a business, these can be great for stock images to use on your social media).
4. Why not create a "photo a day" for the month and see if you find you are drawn towards photographing certain things in particular? Make it a challenge to help you get out of the house. For myself, I love photographing mushrooms and toadstools (although I've never truly worked out the difference). But I love it when I find one I haven't photographed before.
5. Why don't you ask someone to go with you on your walk, see what other people find interesting to photograph and see if it inspires you - can you both approach the same subject differently? Having company can lighten your mood, and if you find a fellow SAD's sufferer, understand that you are helping each other, which in itself can be quite healing.
Most important for all of this, is taking time out for yourself and not punishing yourself with guilt because you've found yourself spiralling. Your walk doesn't have to be a long one, if the end of your garden, or the end of your street is enough for you, that is still a win!
Do you think you've got SAD? Check out the NHS website for advice and help. Seasonal Affective Disorder
Talk to family and friends and keep an eye out in case you think someone close to you is affected.
Barbara has been doing photography for over 30 years, covering most fields in the genre. Her favourite thing to do is inspire others to go out with their camera and improve their photography skills, be it as an hobby, or for business, For more details, check out the different options on her "Learn Photography" dropdown menu on the website.