Battling SADness through Global Awareness

November is here again. While hedgehogs are enjoying their long and cozy hibernation, we  humans are expected to push forwards and carry on our busy working days despite the (possibly) oppressive darkness and (certainly) freezing temperatures.

In Finland it happens every year; we lose connection with the sun. For some people, it’s not a big deal, but most of us get affected by the darkness in a way or another. You might feel less energetic, and lose motivation for something that used to inspire you before.

We’ve all heard the common advice on how to tackle seasonal affective disorder (SAD) “kaamosmasennus”: Sleep enough, exercise regularly, bright light therapy, et cetera. Smart eating and exercise are good things to follow throughout the year, but I figured that there must be some other ways to make you feel better since this isn’t only a problem for us Finns. Surprisingly, while searching alternative solutions, I found out that the people in Iceland make a refreshing exception!  A study of more than 2000 people there found the prevalence of seasonal affective disorder and seasonal changes in anxiety and depression to be unexpectedly low in both sexes1. Perhaps the volcanic soil and a fish-rich diet make the difference.

Also the Japanese are known for their numerous out-of-the-box solutions to many everyday problems, so why not turn to them to find new methods for SAD “kaamosmasennus”! Here are the tips I found:

1. Take a nice long bath. Bathe in water under +40 Cº (104°F) for at least 10 minutes. IMPORTANT: Do not take a cool shower after the bath or enter the bath right after exercise.

2. Pour your heart out. Speaking out your mind to a close friend or anyone who’s a good listener might lower your stress levels remarkably. It’s totally OK to complain about the weather but also about other things in your mind.

3. Mind your sleeping position. Sleeping on your back in an X-position might feel good at first, but it’s also the main cause for snoring, which is really not good for you. Sleeping sideways is the ideal position, the Japanese say.

Are you ready to try some of these tips? I wonder what kind of helpful advice Canadians, Chinese or Russians could offer for SAD? We shouldn’t let language barriers stop us from finding alternative solutions to our everyday problems and beyond.

Lastly, I would like to share a tip that I dare everyone to try today. It’s very simple: Smile to a stranger. Do it once a day somewhere like in the subway or on the streets without a particular reason. In some cultures, this is totally normal, but here in Finland, it surely isn’t. I’m looking forward to your comments on the experiment!


Image Source:“To Capture a Star” by TimOve is licensed under a CC by 2.0

¹Magnusson, A.; Axelsson, J.; Karlsson, M. M.; Oskarsson, H. (2000). “Lack of seasonal mood change in the Icelandic population: Results of a cross-sectional study”. The American Journal of Psychiatry157(2): 234–238.doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.2.234PMID 10671392.


Minna Taavitsainen

Minna is an East Asia expert. For her, different languages and cultures make this planet a truly fascinating place. On her free time she's always up for handstands and handsprings!