IMAGE: Getty Images. Winter doesn’t make your brain sluggish either. The claim that winter slows our brains doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny either. New research led by a team of neuroscientists tested volunteers’ cognitive function throughout the year, looking for hard evidence that short, dark days and cold weather really could dent our cognitive abilities. They did find that certain types of brain activity were reduced in winter, but that doesn’t mean our brains are working less well during the cold months — quite the opposite, in fact.
“Some media outlets have interpreted this as evidence for winter sluggishness, but as the participants’ performance and alertness was as good in winter as at other times of year, their reduced winter brain activity can actually be seen as a sign of improved efficiency,” explains Jarrett. “You could even think of this reduced winter neural activity as your brain entering a kind of ‘eco mode,’ allowing it to perform as well as it does in summer but while consuming fewer resources.” Other research from the north of Norway backs up this conclusion, showing our brains, if anything, function slightly better in winter.
But wait, winter still bums me out…
All of which is fascinating and might help cheer you up a bit if you’re part of the country is currently in the deep freeze, but a bunch of scientific findings won’t make your subjective sense of the winter blues instantly disappear. If, despite the lack of evidence for winter’s negative effects, you still feel like you just want to curl up in a ball and sleep all day, the problem might be your attitude, not your brain.
Other research conducted in harsh Arctic regions suggests that how we think about winter is the most important determinant of how the season affects us. Because of their culture, Norwegians, for example, generally view winter with excitement and cheer. Very few of them report experiencing the winter blues. Scientists suggest that you can steal their approach to improve your mood in winter.