As cold winter months are approaching it’s important for creatives to know what to do when it comes to mental health recovery.
Days are getting shorter, temperatures are lower, and sunlight is almost a distant memory. These change can have a big influence on mental health and creativity.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) affect about 20 percent of the American population in a mild form.
Its symptoms include oversleeping, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness. Given this, it’s unsurprising that artists often find colder months to influence their work and creativity.
Kulture Hub reached out to creatives to see how they deal with the winter blues and mental health recovery during this cold season.
Cold weather’s strong grasp on our mental health
Orla Bordeaux, a writer and director, in her Junior year at New York University, has noticed the changing seasons affecting her mental wellbeing. “I’m indoors more and not able to go outside [to] enjoy the sunshine, so mentally I definitely get pretty down,” Bordeaux said.
“It’s not that I got big spikes of depression, but I feel I’m just wallowing in this kind of low, sad place.”– Orla Bordeaux, Junior at NYU
Ana Monfared, an actor and writer, sometimes essayist and painter, recognizes similar feelings:
“I definitely see [how] winter always takes a huge toll on my mental health…”– Ana Monfared, Actor and Writer
“There are times when I think that it hasn’t, I’m like, ‘no, I’m fine’ and then winter will end and summer will start, spring will start and I’m like, holy shit, I was so sad,” Monfared, who is based in Vancouver, Canada, said.
Aditi Damle, an illustrator currently quarantining in Texas, “Not seeing the sun definitely affects my general well-being.”
Damle first experienced the effect of daylight savings when she moved from India to the US for grad school. “I’m a night person so I tend to work at night which means I wake up late which means I really miss out on the sun hours and that bums me out,” she said.
“There’s this general brain fog luring me into bed that’s hard to beat some days.”– Aditi Damle, Illustrator
Weinye, a cartoonist is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, first experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder when she moved to San Francisco for six years in 2010.
While SF’s winter wasn’t as cold as other places, she was still affected. “I rarely got to hang out with my friends due to the cold, so I was mostly bored and isolated,” she said.
“The loneliness eventually crept up on me and as the saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop’ is indeed true. I started overthinking and being emotional for no apparent reason which led to physical fatigue.”– Weinye, Cartoonist
The connection between mood and creativity
While all creatives we spoke to recognize a potential connection between mood and creativity, their understanding of this connection is different.
“I always used to think that my most creative places were my most painful and vulnerable and honest and raw [places] and I don’t know if that’s true at all,” said Bordeaux.
“I think when I’m in really dark places mentally, my creativity kind of halts to a stop.” Bordeaux finds herself the most creative and productive in the moments in-between when she’s “kind of bouncing back from dark places.”
Damle also struggles to create sometimes. “When you live with depression and anxiety there are days where you just cannot do it. I completely shut down and I cannot be creative, I feel like if I have to create anything when my mental health is down its just going to come out bad,” she explained.
“I personally feel like if I’m in a positive state of mind, that energy translates into the work I make and reflects positive vibes versus when it’s not so good.”– Aditi Damle, Illustrator
It’s different for Monfared who doesn’t feel like her level of creativity changes. “You know, I think I have made some of my favorite work when I’m really fucking sad,” she said.
“I think in some ways I make a specific pocket of work when I’m particularly affected by seasonal affective disorder.”– Ana Monfared, Actor and Writer
She explained that while she’s not more (or less) creative, the time of year changes the type of art she makes. “[when I’m really affected by S.A.D.], I think, is when I’m doing more of my like really depressing, sad work that would make my parents worried,” Monfared shared.
Weinye sees some positive effects of S.A.D. on her art. “I have found myself producing some of my best work during my not-so-good times,” she said.
“I think in my case, I was using my art to lay off the pressure I was feeling. It was a way for me to distract myself from the problems I was facing at the time.”– Weinye, Cartoonist
So, what are ways for creatives to combat the winter blues and mental health recovery?
“Set a goal and share your work, because it makes you hold yourself accountable,” Bordeaux said. “And surround yourself with people who inspire you and who inspire you to make work.”
She gives an example of an impromptu painting night she recently had with her sister.
“I’m surrounded by really wonderful friends and people in my life and I’m inspired by [them].”– Orla Bordeaux, Junior at NYU
For Damle, staying creative is all about channeling what you’re experiencing into your art. “Use the struggle to inspire you to try something new.”
She also recommended trying a new medium and talking to friends, a professional, or just a diary. “Find a place to put it somewhere other than in your head.”
Monfared suggests not setting any expectations and trying a new medium. “That’s why painting is one of my favorite things to do because I don’t have any plans of becoming a painter in the future or selling my paintings.”
She continued: “Therefore when I sit down and paint (…) it’s such a beautiful space of free-flowing art, which then often actually leads to something else.”
Weinye also shared some advice: “Do not compare your productivity level with others because everyone is moving at their own pace and so should you.”
When it comes to combatting the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, or dealing with mental health recovery, it’s important for creatives, to just do what works best.
“It is okay to not be okay sometimes,” Weinye said. “We are human beings. Not machines. Shit happens!”