My days of throwing tantrums because I couldn’t watch TV or crying when I didn’t get ice cream ended just shy of two decades ago. At this point, my ability to choose my mood ought to at least withstand weather fluctuations. Yet when the sunlight is finally victorious enough to break through the gray clouds of winter and announce the spring, I seriously consider dancing a jig right where I’m standing. Spring arrives and I look back on the last few months of my life and wonder how exactly I didn’t realize how gloomy I had become.
The dismal weather’s effect on mood is likely compounded for the average college student by the increase in class workload throughout the term and added stressors like roommate situations or scary “what are your plans for next year?” questions.
This year as the rainy/snowy/slushy/downright frigid season continues, I am bound and determined to preserve my cheery attitude.
To that end, here is my list of ways to combat winter gloom – after a bit of legitimate research and a more extensive brainstorm session:
Even 20 minutes of moderate exercise can boost your positive attitude noticeably for 12 hours. 20 minutes is a small price to pay for a whole day of endorphin-incited happiness.
Seek sunlight or fake it.
Your circadian rhythm is real. That’s your internal clock that tells you what time of day it is. The sunlight helps keep this rhythm in check. Take a walk outside just after the sun rises to jump start the awake portion of your circadian routine. Second best? Spend time in well-lit rooms during the day. Also, many college health centers have a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp that imitates natural sunlight. You can most likely reserve a 15 minute block of time with the SAD lamp. Check out more light tips here.
Clean. Recycle. Donate. Rearrange.
Winter seems like the same ol’ same ol’. Change things up by dumping some old junk and revitalizing your room with new décor or a new layout. Plus, if you’re getting rid of quality items you don’t use that someone else will find useful, that will feel good, too!
Adopt a house plant.
Sure, nothing’s growing outside, but plenty of cacti and other houseplants can survive a college student’s first venture into caring for a living thing. P.S. Brightly-colored fish are said to have a similar mood-lightening effect. If you succeed at keeping a plant alive, maybe you’re ready for the finned-friend big leagues.
Learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby.
Perhaps you’ll look back on winter and see that you used your extra time indoors to develop a new talent with practical or entertainment value. Learn to knit. Gather some friends and learn to play pinochle. Practice the dance steps to Thriller. Memorize all of the elements on the Periodic Table. Whatever. Who knows what you’ll accomplish while your home is surrounded by snow?
About 15 million Americans fall into the deep gloom of Seasonal Affective Disorder each winter, but I’m willing to bet that an even larger number of Americans simply find themselves a little more like Eeyore than Tigger when winter seems endless.
Those five ideas are my thoughts on how to keep my mood as optimistic as possible this winter. Confession: I probably still cry when I don’t get ice cream. I’ll work on that.
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