With the impromptu snow storm in the middle of April, it’s hard to imagine that this Iowa winter will ever be over. If you’re feeling sad, lethargic, and even slightly depressed, you’re not alone—seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. Fortunately, this prolonged weather-dependent disorder fades as the weather improves. But what if the weather never seems to improve? What if those anticipated 50/60 degree days are taking too long to reach us? Never fear: it is possible to combat these winter-in-April blues with a few easy steps.
1. Surround yourself with more light. Simply by opening the blinds or curtains and allowing more light into your room works wonders with your mood. If you’re studying in the library, sit closer to the windows. Studies also show that being outside for thirty minutes a day also vastly improves a person’s mood. Just one more reason to walk to class, outside in the natural light.
2. Eat smarter. Filling yourself with simple carbohydrates and sugar may improve your mood in the short term, but for a drawn-out bout of seasonal affective disorder, turn towards foods you normally associate with warmer weather, such as fresh fruit. If you have access to a grill, make burgers or grilled vegetables. Eating summertime-type foods can bring you back to warmer days and decrease your winter blues.
3. Exercise more. Obviously exercise is great for the body, mind, and soul, but sometimes it’s hard to schedule it into our busy lives or even motivate ourselves to get to the AWC. Fortunately, there are other sneaky ways to get the proper amount of exercise during a normal day of classes. If you’re like me and constantly speed-walking to classes that you’re going to be late for, you’re in luck: a 2005 Harvard study suggests that walking at a quick pace for 35 minutes a day, five times a week, improved mild to moderate depression. Another great reason to walk to class, even if you’re running late.
4. Listen to upbeat music. A 2013 study showed that listening to cheery music was another way to improve your mood. Here’s an idea: while walking to class, pop a pair of headphones into your ears and listen to some upbeat music as you simultaneously get your exercise.
5. Plan a vacation. We all know it’s the thought that counts, so why not start thinking about what you’re going to do on May 17 when the semester is over? Research shows that simply planning something that you know will make you happy actually causes an increase in current happiness.
6. Help others. The happiest people are truly the people who bring happiness to others. Take some time to volunteer, write a note to a friend, or call someone who needs it. By helping someone else, you might end up helping yourself more in the process.