It seems like Rutgers never canceling classes on snow days is one of the worst parts of winter. Or maybe it’s getting stranded on the highway as you take the bus to class on a day with dreadful weather. But the truth is, these are nothing but inconveniences that dull in comparison to some of the more somber aspects of winter that many of us know too well.
SAD — seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression — afflicts millions of people each year, and about 13% of college students.
SAD is characterized by a depression that starts and ends with a change of season. Most commonly, this means that feeling moody, down or losing energy starts around fall and ends as the sunnier days of spring approach.
SAD can have us feeling blue and depressed almost every day, often having us lose interest in things we typically enjoy. In addition, we may have low energy, problems sleeping and a feeling of hopelessness that seems to never leave us alone. Problems like oversleeping, changes in appetite and weight gain are all signs that our winter blues are much more serious than the average “bad day.”
These “winter blues” are both created and perpetuated by the sheer nature of winter and our avoidance, as well as deprival of the sun. In chilly and dreary weather, we tend to stay inside, hide under our covers and avoid the bitter cold at all costs. In addition, the fact that the sun sets so early cuts our days short, inevitably leading to less sunlight exposure. This, of course, depletes us of sunlight and all the benefits it has to offer us both physically and mentally.
So with daylight savings having taken place over the weekend, you can anticipate the gradual end of SAD, as the sun will begin to set later, giving us much-needed time in the sunlight.
“People are outside in the sunlight more after daylight saving time arrives, and the sunlight entering the eye increases serotonin levels,” according to LancasterOnline.
I mean, we know the sun makes us happier, but why? And what is all this serotonin talk?
The reason behind the sun acting as a sort of medicine for our SAD can be simplified in an equation: More sun equals more Vitamin D, and more Vitamin D begets more serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. With more Vitamin D, our body makes more serotonin, which is why we experience more positivity as our exposure to sunlight increases in the spring.
It’s so easy to get caught in an endless cycle of feeling down as we stay inside and out of the sun day by day. It’s hard to want to spend an extended amount of time outside when the cold is bone-chilling, but it’s essential for your well-being. It's essential to not give up on yourself.
Even if you leave your dorm to get some coffee, you’ll be catching some Vitamin D on the way. Mayo Clinic recommends that we take our SAD seriously and reach out for help, as well as do things that will help us through these difficult months.
Some tips to combat SAD include therapy, creating a brighter and sunnier environment for yourself, meditating and getting outside, even if it’s taking a short walk.
When in the midst of winter, struggling with SAD can often feel lonely, like a perpetual dark cloud that hovers over you. Acknowledging SAD and taking action to help yourself is the hardest but most important step.
Reach out for help, tell a family member or friend or go outside and get some sun. But above all, always put your best interests at heart.
It’s so vital to realize that you are worthy of life, love and happiness, no matter how you may be feeling. Take care of yourself and stay strong, sunnier days are near. Remember that in life, just as in winter, ahead of bitter, harsh months are plush trees, blooming flowers and sunny days.