The winter blues. A seasonal slump. Whatever you’d like to call it, the feeling is real. So real there is a medical term for it called Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as “SAD.” Although not all those who feel a case of the winter blues are suffering from SAD, which is a serious emotional disturbance, there is something to be said for this time of year in which “cocooning” and “hermitting” are typical seasonal reactions, especially when student finals fall into the wintery mix.
With one in four people feeling biological negative effects from the winter season and over 11 million Americans diagnosed with SAD, it’s time to seriously address manageable ways to overcome the sluggish onsets.
If the gloom caused by Mother Nature affects you negatively, try some of these mindful and scientifically-proven ways to combat the winter blues, most of which can be done in a higher ed setting:
- Brighten up your environment. Due to shorter days in the wintertime, it is natural for your body to crave more sunlight. If you can, try to schedule a vacation during this time of year and head to a warm climate where the sun is shining for longer periods throughout the day. An after Christmas vacation or spring break getaway are perfectly aligned times for college students (and professors) to escape the cold and head somewhere warmer. If taking a vacation isn’t in the cards, make an effort to sit next to an artificial light box for at least 30 minutes a day. It might sound funny, but light therapy does work!
- Exercise. Studies continually show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as an antidepressant. It’s a holistic method of sorts that improves your thoughts and in turn improves your mood and general well-being. A collection of resources gathered from Harvard University postulates that a brisk 30 minute walk three to five times a day can have a significant impact on your symptoms of depression. Try walking a longer way to class or better yet, reduce your short-distanced driving and run your errands by foot.
- Eat Healthfully. Serotonin is a chemical produced naturally by your body to help you feel happy and energetic. Luckily, there are certain foods that can assist to increase natural serotonin levels in your body. Eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds are a few of those special foods. When choosing foods to eat, it’s also important to keep mindful that carbohydrates and sugar might give you a temporary boost of energy, but can ultimately lead to crashes and feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Listen to music. Music ignites emotions. A University of Missouri study proves that listening to cheery and upbeat tunes can improve an individual’s mood in both the short and long term. Remember when we said, walk the longer route to class? Make the route more enjoyable by plugging in those headphones and listening to your favorite happy tracks.
- Lend a hand. Helping others by volunteering at a hospital or local soup kitchen can improve your mental health and invoke a sense of satisfaction. There are so many volunteer opportunities out there- take the time to find one that hits home to you. Make an effort to attend the next student organization club fair, sign up for volunteer-based group, and make some new friends along the way.
If your mood is as cold and dark as your surroundings, remember that there are steps you can take to combat dull and listless feelings. Being in tune with your body during this vulnerable season is the first step towards transformation. We hope these simple and mindful lifestyle changes help you to combat those dreaded winter blues.