How Embracing Aesthetic Principles Can Help “Winter Blues”

Isabelle appreciates the beauty of the cold winter weather and what it can bring to our lives.

If you’re anything like me, you arrived starry-eyed to the misty ruins, crashing surf, and lamp-lit cobblestones that define the heart of St Andrews, to put it somewhat poetically.


Maybe you envisioned yourself as being some mysterious Scottish poet penning sonnets under the quivering glow of a cob-webbed candelabra, or perhaps as a melancholy wanderer philosophizing among the crow-flocked gravestones. Maybe I’m writing this as an excuse to indulge in the same dark academia delusions that definitely did not influence my decision to study here.


A physical manifestation of what I imagined my room to look like when I moved to St. Andrews (Source: Unsplash)


Anyway, if you’re also anything like me, you realized after some time that a prolonged holiday from Vitamin D has apparently impaired the “zygomaticus major” muscle from forming the upward curvature that is a smile (I study literature and have no idea if this is the actual muscle—I blame Google if anything).


Of course, the effects of winter — the sun’s retreat into seeming forever-ness, the almost hellishly-intensified precipitation, and the general dilution of color and energy from the world — leave hardly any dregs of the doubt when confronting the uptick in mood disorders around this time, like SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Nonetheless, and I guess paradoxically, I’d like to propose a return to, or an embracing of, such delightfully moody atmospheres – especially as the winter months come rolling around and those misty, gray-skied days become ever more recurrent than the sunny, clear-skied ones.


I think the methods of these romanticizations can be summed up through seven vantage points. In compiling together different sources for aesthetic categorization, I hope to offer some season-relevant examples and solutions that might aid the scarf-bundled, deadline-laden student in defeating the notorious Scottish monster otherwise known as “Winter”:


  • We appreciate art for its own sake: Savoring the simplicities and natural qualities of the world around us, beyond the utilitarian application, is aesthetically fulfilling. This fulfillment can be achieved by pausing to feel even the dreariest day’s rain on our skin, watching the sun as it rises in a melody of colors down at West Sands, or taking amusement at the crow before you as it struts to and fro and ruffles its feathers on the grounds.


  •  We appreciate art as a feat of skill: Catching the very-techy festive lights show hosted at a castle, admiring pieces of local craftsmanship at a Christmas market stall, or enjoying a riveting performance of “The Nutcracker” at the theater are all ways in which we can find pleasure in portrayals of talent.


A glittering assemblage of stalls at Edinburgh’s annual Christmas market
(Source: Unsplash)


  • We appreciate art in the realm of familiarity: Listening on loop to the Christmas bops you loved most as a child, reinforcing a yearly visit to your local church’s choir service, or heating up the kettle for a nice, warm mug of your favorite drink are each comforting things in their nostalgic routine. And certainly, what’s more familiar to us than family—spending time with family, or people we love, in the simple gestures of conversation and company, can also be a comforting thing in and of itself.


  • We appreciate art in the realm of unfamiliarity: Contrary to familiarity, we are also moved by the novelty and thrill of new experiences. Such novelty may be found in experimenting with an original, spiced cookie recipe (just don’t repeat my mistake, burn them, and leave your flatmates with an unpleasant kitchen stench—oops!), trying your musical talents out at a festival, or dip your toes (literally) in some icy, open water swimming.


  • We appreciate art as an intellectual challenge: Playing a round of maybe-too-vicious chess with your siblings, assembling an engineering feat of a double-decker gingerbread house, or diving into the pages of a Christmas tale under the covers is all sure-fire ways to stimulate the mind this winter.
    If only my gingerbread houses could have half the artistry as this one
    (Source: Unsplash)


  • We appreciate art in the workings of imagination: We are naturally imaginative, creative creatures. Seeking out new worlds in the realm of ghostly storytelling around a bonfire, concocting a popsicle-stick, button-eyed creation of some new, mythical monster, or taking a stroll through a wooded scene where the mind can take the reins are all ways in which we can feel more liberated and more inventive in our day-to-day thinking and lives.


  • We appreciate art as a form of self-expression: Embracing our individuality can be a cathartic act expressed perhaps in painting an impressionistic landscape of your window-view, however bad you believe yourself to be, dancing unapologetically to the beat of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, or just calling to let someone know that you love or are thinking about them.


Certainly, appreciating the world through these aesthetic lenses can help us to feel more rooted, festive, and content in weather that seems to shout otherwise. Yet, it’s important to acknowledge, too, the value of giving back and thinking about those in the community who may not have the same opportunities to indulge in the festive traditions that many of us have come to associate with a season of “comfort and joy”. By embracing these aesthetic principles as well as thinking about others before ourselves—checking in with our community members, volunteering at a nursing home, donating supplies to a foodbank—we can more easily defeat such “winter blues” through a tenacity beyond ourselves—one found in the community.


Works Cited

  • Heshmat, Shahram. “Key Factors Influencing Aesthetic Preference.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,
  • Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Humen Nature. Penguin Books, 2003.
  • Winner, Ellen. How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration. Oxford University Press, 2019.



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