Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Season of Suffering

Posted 02/24/2023 by Brady Vinlove

Winter weather like this is meant to put a sad face on all who experience it.  photo by Shana Saint-Phard

I am convinced that winter exists to make us bitter and unhappy, and science might be on my side.*

As a child, winter was my favorite season; I loved racing down snowy hills on a sled, building snow forts with my family, and sitting cozily in a blanket, sipping hot chocolate. I saw the falling snow and bitter cold as an exciting change and a promise for a fun day ahead. Now, however, when it snows or the temperature drops below freezing, I feel I have been cheated out of a good day and am constantly wishing for spring.

My hatred of winter has grown slowly over time. At first, as I got older, I stopped participating in some of my favorite winter activities like sledding and playing in the snow, but I didn’t hate winter. The biggest change happened during the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was shut inside to isolate. In order to chase away the boredom and get some exercise, I went on walks outside and had outdoor meetups with friends. However, all of that changed when winter attacked. Then, I couldn’t even experience my limited scope of activities outside the house or exercise as much, which was even more draining to my mental health. This was when I first realized that winter is not the time of joy that I thought it was when I was younger, but instead a time meant to make us suffer.

My revelations about the true nature of winter have only continued. Being in high school has given me less free time due to increased homework, extracurricular activities, and a part time job. This means that spending time outside has become an even more valuable privilege that I look forward to as a boost for my mental health. I also enjoy exercising outside instead of going to the gym – activities like hiking, running, and biking are more for me. During the winter, it is cold, gray, and slippery, making it difficult to go outside and get exercise. Of course, I could bundle up and face the severe cold, but after a long day, staying inside under a cozy blanket where no wind or snow can hurt me seems like such a better alternative. These fears are not unfounded, as experts note that wearing protective gear when exercising during the winter is crucial to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. That’s right – during the winter, doing something essential to staying healthy, like exercising, requires superfluous protection or can put you at great risk.

Even though it is more challenging to get exercise in the winter, it is still crucial to do so for physical and mental wellness. Numerous doctors and universities agree that getting substantial exercise is beneficial to the immune system and can quickly boost mood and reduce stress. This means that my decreased exercise during the winter months leaves me feeling restless and more stressed since it is more difficult to relieve tension through exercise. Even just going outside can help me feel less annoyed with the people around me and give me a refresh, so during the winter those feelings just pile up since I don’t go outside. I am more irritated, not only due to a lack of exercise, but also because the weather makes me frustrated and I’m always wishing for spring. On top of being stressed and irritable, I am often more tired during the winter due to the increase in the amount of night hours. Our bodies have an internal method of keeping track of time called the circadian clock, which tells us when to sleep and wake up based on sunlight. This means that during the winter, our bodies crave more sleep due to the decrease in sunlight and want to wake up later, as the sun rises later. This means that waking up early to get to school is even more difficult during the winter, giving us a scientific excuse to be extra grumpy and late to first period. 

Like the mind, the body is also relentlessly attacked during the winter. As mentioned previously, it is important to bundle up when it is cold outside to stay safe and have the will to step outside. Although I love sweaters, it’s frustrating to have to wear so many layers just to be comfortable and even when I’m outside, I still feel the stuffiness of the indoors. While the snow can be fun at first, it quickly becomes a nuisance and a danger. The risk of car accidents increases in the winter due to the snow and over time, the snow becomes dirty, making the world look even grayer. The air isn’t only cold during the winter, but also dry, leading to flaky skin and clogged sinuses which leave me feeling disgusted with myself. Sickness is also increased during this time as the cold, dry air kills about half of the cells within the nose that fight and kill viruses, leaving us more susceptible to getting sick. This is only enhanced by the fact that in the winter we spend more time indoors around other people (which is bad enough in itself), and that also increases the chance of infection. This increased chance of illness is another point of frustration and anxiety, as I don’t want my winter to be made worse by a bout of insufferable sniffling and a scratchy throat, even though it almost inevitably will. On a more serious note, frigid weather causes blood vessels near the skin to contract to avoid heat loss, which leads to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks, especially for those with heart conditions. It’s clear that winter is not only a very dangerous and uncomfortable time but a truly murderous one as well. A study done by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that mortality rates in countries around the world were at the highest during winter months, meaning each winter you survive should be considered an accomplishment. 

As demonstrated, the reasons I abhor winter aren’t irrational and childish. There is scientific evidence that goes to show just how terrible winter is. It freezes every aspect of life, the cold leaving me restless and sick, the dark making me tired, and the snow adding a fun element of danger to the mix. How am I supposed to “live, laugh, love” under these conditions?! The only consolation I can offer myself and anyone who feels the same is that with every passing day, we get closer to the end of the season of suffering. 

*Sorry, mom. I know you are encouraging me to persist and be optimistic, but I just can’t help it.