Beat the Winter Blues

It’s the middle of Winter at Northern Illinois University and unless you’re Canadian you’re probably holed up in apartments and dorms, waiting for the warmth of spring to wake you from a grizzly bear like coma.  Like many of you, I subscribe to that hibernation approach.  I stick my head in my comfy bedsheets and wait for the cold to lift so I can properly enjoy the outdoors I love so dearly.  The winter blues, or cabin fever, is a common term used to describe the moderate to emo feelings that people might get during this cold season  known as winter.  Although I don’t usually talk about it, I’ve known for a long time that I suffer the effects of Season Affective Disorder and it’s always around this time that I get somewhat depressed.  I’ve taken some proactive measures this year to try to side step those feelings and I’m happy to say that these steps have been fairly successful!  So for those of you who are feeling the effects of winter but are hesitant to talk about your state of mind with others, I thought I’d share some tips on how to get well from someone who’s going through it with you.

Step 1: Get a Natural Daylight Lamp

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"It's sort of like the Pixar lamp, only this one won't stomp on you"

Much of the negative feelings attached with winter, come as a result of sunlight deprivation.  There are lamps out there designed to mimic the natural rays from the sun.  People often treat themselves with these lights for periods of a half hour or more to help trick their minds into thinking it’s sunny!  That little placebo effect can go a long way!  This is one of the better investments that you could make to help get you out of the funk.  I don’t use the word “investment” lightly either.  These lights, depending on which model you get, can get very expensive.  So please frame this purchase in your mind as “an investment in your well-being and happiness” rather than a quick buy.    I recently purchased one myself and I turn it on when I get home from classes and work (bear in mind by the time I get out at 5 PM the sun is already setting over the horizon).  After exposure to the light, I’ve noticed marked improvement in my productivity and mood.  Maybe it is all mental, but if that’s enough to take your mind off winter, I’d say go ahead and do it!

Step 2: Take Vitamins

So we’ve talked about the placebo effect that the sun can have on your mood but what about the actual physical effects?  When we expose ourselves to the sunlight we unknowingly absorb a number of vitamins from the suns rays.  In winter, when the sun is not as prevalent, the lack of vitamins can literally lead to a minor deficiency which actually messes with your mood!  Who knew!?  So after I came across this research, I took it upon myself to purchase the recommended Vitamin D3 and Vitamin B12 tablets.  I’ve found that taking one each day provides a profound pick me up!  Just last week I was sitting around in the afternoon feeling kind of down; I couldn’t figure out why.  When I looked back on the events of that day I remembered that I forgot to take the vitamins.  Perhaps that was just my mind playing tricks on me, but either way I should probably take some daily vitamins anyway.

Step 3: Eat and Drink Fruits

Nothing can bring back thoughts of warm climates and good times like a good fruit shake, a citrus fruit, or a banana.

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"Remember that one time it wasn't -20 degrees?!"

Not only are you receiving tons of vitamins in each serving but you literally have to try not to smile when drinking or eating one!  Go ahead.  Try it!  I dare you!

Step 4: Exercise

Exercise does a number of things to make you feel better.  It increases circulation, increases hormone production such as endorphins and adrenaline, and is a proven stress reliever.  The recreation center is free for students so why not go lift some weights, walk on a treadmill, or shoot a basketball?

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"Because shirtless outdoor plyometrics just isn't my style..."

I can speak from experience and say that these small steps have gone a long way in helping me break through the fog of winter.  As long as this article helps one person smile I feel that I’ve done my job.  Thanks for reading and if you have any other suggestions or tips, please feel free to add to the conversation in the comments section!  2.0out

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