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Different Ways to Beat the Winter Blues in China

Once the days have gotten colder and the nights are getting longer in China, there are numerous pitfalls to watch out for. You may have heard of freezing temperatures or air pollution, but among all those pitfalls lies one silent but rather severe product of China’s winter: the Winter Blues.

In this Pacific Prime blog post, we will be going through the idea of the winter blues, its symptoms, causes, and ways to get around it.

What are the Winter Blues?

The winter blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness amidst cold temperatures during the winter.

As a result of light deprivation diminishing sunlight, victims of SAD can experience mood changes that can affect sleep, diet, or energy patterns. For instance, SAD victims could still feel fatigued and drained, despite oversleeping, and could face appetite changes that may trigger overeating.

Other common symptoms may include irritability, pleasure and energy loss, crying spells, difficulties concentrating, weight gain, the feeling of worthlessness, social withdrawal, and low thoughts.


Most of the time, winter blues symptoms manifest during late fall or early winter and fade away during the sunnier times of spring and summer. In rare instances, however, some people begin manifesting such symptoms in the spring or summer.

Moreover, people with bipolar disorders have a higher risk of manifesting winter blues symptoms.

Below are some symptoms of winter blues:

  • Feeling sad or depressed for the majority (or the entirety) of the day.
  • Acting or feeling disinterested in activities you would usually enjoy.
  • Lacking energy and alertness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Craving carbohydrates, overeating, and weight gain.
  • Difficulties concentrating.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt.
  • Thinking of not wanting to live anymore.
  • Agitation, irritability, or anxiety.

Furthermore, these symptoms of winter blues can worsen and lead to one of the following problems, if left untreated:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Work or school problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior


The exact cause, while unknown, can be attributed to the decrease in sunlight contributing to brain chemical and body hormone changes. The decrease in sunlight could contribute to a chemical change in the brain, disrupting your body’s internal clock and leading to feelings of depression.

More specifically, the decrease in sunlight causes a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) and causes feelings of depression. The change in season can also disrupt the balance of melatonin (a sleep-related hormone), causing an alteration in sleep patterns, which affects mood.

Risk Factors

Symptoms of winter blues are more common in women as opposed to men, and even moreso in younger adults as opposed to older adults. Below are some factors that could increase one’s risk of developing winter blues symptoms:

  • Family History: It’s not outside the realm of possibility that individuals with symptoms of winter blues are a result of blood relatives with the same symptoms or other forms of depression.
  • Major Depression or Bipolar Disorders: General symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder could worsen seasonally with winter blues symptoms.
  • Distanced from the equator: Symptoms of winter blues are more common in individuals who live towards the further north or south of the equator. This can be attributed to low sunlight in the winter and longer days in the summer.
  • Vitamin-D Deficiency: Some Vitamin-D is produced in the skin upon sunlight exposure, helping boost serotonin activity and contributing to a good mood. However, less sunlight and lack of Vitamin-D intake from food or other sources may cause lack of Vitamin-D in the body.

Prevention & Treatment

While there are no key ways to prevent the development of winter blues symptoms, early steps to manage such symptoms should be able to prevent them from worsening over time.

Below are some prevention and treatment ideas that you can use to manage and prevent the development of such symptoms:

Physical Activity

It’s better to actually workout, but basic physical movements can also work if you do not want to actually hit the gym. Any method of exercise, even something as simple as going out for a walk or a bit of jogging, helps you feel better emotionally and reduces stress.

Light Therapy

Exposing yourself to natural light via sunlight, or artificial light via sunlamps, is a suitable method to relieve the symptoms of winter blues. If you can, try to go outside for a few minutes to get natural sunlight. You can also use a sunlamp, light box, or visit an infrared sauna.

Engage in a Hobby

Spend some time with yourself and engage in new hobbies in addition to what you already do. A hobby gives you something to concentrate on and look forward to, while also helping you stay active.

Eat Healthy

Nutrition is vital to your mental health. It’s strongly recommended that you hold off on high carbohydrates and sugary foods in favor of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and complex carbohydrates in your diet.

Social Support

You may feel more comfortable being closed off at home during this time, but socializing and engaging with your friends is much healthier and more productive. You can seek support from your friends by talking it out and expressing your difficulties, which your friends can help you with.


From maintaining proper nutrition and engaging in exercise to seeking social support from friends and giving yourself light exposure for a few minutes, there are a multitude of ways to manage your symptoms resulting from the winter blues.

Whether you’re a Chinese local or an expat looking to settle down in China for the foreseeable future, knowing these preventive measures will help you control, manage, and prevent these symptoms from bothering you during this time.

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Disclaimer: Pacific Prime solely represents, operates and manages locally regulated insurance products and services in the territory of PR China. Any references to Pacific Prime Global Company or Group, the international services, insurance products or otherwise stated written or verbally, is for introduction purposes about our overseas network only as each entity is fully independent.