Ishmam Khan ’25
Seasonal Depression, clinically recognized as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a recurrent pattern of seasonal depression or lack of exposure to sunlight during certain seasons, especially winter. Naturally, researchers have posited several hypotheses about how this disorder originated. One popular hypothesis of the origins of this condition is the “latitude hypothesis,” which states that the further a location is from the sun, the more likely the inhabitants of that location are to exhibit depressive symptoms and episodes. However, recent studies have begun to contradict this hypothesis, stating that the amount of light has little to do with how one feels internally in regards to the environment. A study done in Norway by Kari Leibowitz and Joar Vitterso in the International Journal of Wellbeing set out to explain these contradictory findings through the lens of “mindset.” The experiment investigated whether certain mindsets about the seasons, specifically winter, actually did contribute to a depressive episode among 3 areas in Norway (Svalbard, Tromso, and Oslo) and whether wintertime mindsets contributed to seasonal well-being.
Researchers used two scales to measure the emotions of inhabitants of these places: Subjective Well Being (SWB) and Wintertime Mindset Scale (WMS). The results indicated that a positive wintertime mindset is associated with subjective well-being in Norway, with a positive wintertime mindset correlating with life satisfaction and positive emotions. They also found that wintertime mindset statistically mediated the effect of location on subjective well-being. When the researchers were testing the “latitude hypothesis” with SWB, they found that Svalbard, the northmost location tested, reported the highest SWB. By identifying wintertime mindset as an important factor influencing well-being for residents of northern Norway, researchers have uncovered a psychological approach to winter that may be exported from Norway to improve winter well-being elsewhere.
This study suggests that shifting perspectives can benefit our mental well-being. Understanding that mindset is something that can be controlled opens up new possibilities and solutions to allow us to see the bright side of winter.
- K. Leibowitz., & J. Vittersø., Winter is coming: wintertime mindset and wellbeing in Norway. International Journal of Wellbeing 10, 1-20 (2020). doi: 10.5503/ijw.v10i4.935
- Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/photos/snowflake-snow-crystal-snow-crystal-1245748/