Winter Blues and PhD Life

Do you have a mood swing during the winter season? Do you feel that the gloomy winter affects your PhD life? If the answer to both questions is yes, then this post is for you.


Recently, I declared that winter was my favourite season. The Christmas festivities and morning frost make everything look splendid. I also love the opportunity to wear multiple layers of clothing, something that is impossible to do in my home country, tropical Indonesia.

But it takes time to love winter. During my first winter in the UK, I was shocked by the frequent gloomy sky. After a period of excitement as a fresher, I finally felt homesick. I missed the sun, the humidity, and all tropical things I had in Indonesia.

After seeking professional help, I realised that winter blues is a common problem in the UK. The absence of the sun has a direct effect on serotonin and melatonin production, the two hormones that are biologically related to our feelings and mood.


So what is the recipe to love winter? Here I share some tips to enjoy winter and kill the blues:

Try some new recipes

As outdoor activities are limited, I find that cooking and baking are good options to escape from the melancholic sky. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Making a simple bread pudding with some leftovers from your kitchen can turn out amazing! Also, try to make some soup to warm up your tummy. Recently, I tried to make Thai Tom Yum, and the taste was quite similar to the one I have in my favourite Thai restaurant in Birmingham. These small things are a big help in scaring away my bad winter mood.

Reading, reading, and watching

Other indoor activities that I enjoy a lot is reading novels. Recently, I read 1Q84, a dystopian novel by Haruki Murakami. It brings me to another universe, that of Japanese society in 1984. As I commute from Birmingham to Coventry, reading on the train also provides me with a reflective space during this season. Every night, I also read children’s books for my daughter before she goes to bed. As she falls asleep, the storytelling practice also brings me to some magical winter wonderland. Last but not least, watching Sex Education season 2 on Netflix makes me feels that it is already spring in the UK.

Small sweat has a huge impact

Research has shown that exercise is a good way to increase our mood. However, for me, it takes a lot of effort to run in the park during winter. A short walk in the park is quite helpful to increase my mood, and I like to increase the pace every 30 minutes. Sometimes, my attempt to catch the bus to campus is also good to produce some sweat. Any exercise, no matter how big or small, has a huge impact on increasing my mood.

Enjoy the sun, anytime possible

Winter does not mean that the gloomy sky is persistent throughout the season. Some days the sun is friendly enough to appear on the horizon. I try my best to catch these rare opportunities, no matter how busy I am. If you spend too much working on your thesis, it is a good idea to take a break and go outside when the sun is shining. These are some options you have to help increase your happiness hormones during the season.


Prepare some remedies

I might be free from the winter blues, but things such as cold and influenza are quite persistent every year. It is a good option to increase your dose of vitamin C. Sometimes, a bowl of hot soup is also good to relieve the symptoms. In the worst case, paracetamol is the last option to escape from cold and influenza. Again, as a last resort option.

In some cases, the above tips might not work well. If the blues is persistent, you have to contact your GP as soon as possible. They could provide you with psychological support and some medication if it is needed. Whatever the case, there is always a way to kill the blues and enjoy the winter.

Have a nice winter! Stay warm, folks!

How do you feel during the winter? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at, or leave a comment below.

by Asep Darmini

Asep is a final year PhD student at the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies, University of Warwick. His doctoral research aims to analyse the issue of internet and the public sphere in the Indonesian Islamic Boarding School. He is a PhD scholar of the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education. At some occasion, he tweets in English and Indonesian through his account @asepmuiz

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