How Long Until Spring?
How to fight off seasonal depression from your dorm room.
By Katrina Scalise
Graphic by Tess Adams
After last weekend’s cold air blast with wind chills at minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, BU students now truly know what it means to be a college student in the Northeast. For some, this intense weather is just a quirk of a Boston winter, and for others, it's a catalyst for depressive symptoms.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as seasonal depression, has been linked to biochemical imbalances in the brain brought on by less daylight hours in the wintertime, according to the American Psychiatric Association. SAD affects 10 million American adults annually and is prevalent on college campuses in northern regions and particularly among young women, according to the National Library of Medicine.
As a college in one of the coldest regions in America, BU administration has spoken up on fighting off seasonal depression. BU recommends getting as much sunlight as possible during the short winter days, practicing self-care such as hobbies, and connecting with friends and family to counter SAD, according to a 2021 article by Boston University Alumni & Friends.
BU doesn’t just promote these well-meaning messages in university articles, but pushes for mental health access during the tough winter months for its students. Student Health Services offers a wellbeing resources directory to search for support and advice on specific issues, such as SAD and seasonal anxiety.
Researchers also recommend practicing mindfulness and gratitude to counter SAD. BU offers mindful movement yoga, in-person guided mindfulness practices, and free wellness program kits. You can also tune into your body via any of the regular classes held at FitRec, such as yoga, pilates, barre, and spin among many other options. Just getting up and moving can stimulate endorphins that help fight off SAD, and outdoor walks even in the cold can improve vitamin D uptake. If you’re lacking in vitamin D because of Boston’s cloudy skies, look into getting a sun lamp in your dorm.
In addition, self care that is carried out intentionally and with purpose can give your brain something to fixate on, besides the seemingly never ending winter. Picking up a new hobby that requires attention and can be done indoors, such as knitting, reading, or painting is a great way to fill your winter days while being creative. Traditional self care, such as skin care and other forms of pampering are also good, passive ways to fill time and treat yourself.
And although winter may seem like a social barrier for those who suffer from SAD, consider a new perspective: invite your friends over for a cozy night in, listen to music, watch movies, drink some hot cocoa and have good conversations. You can connect with others and feel socially fulfilled from the comfort of your dorm!
Most importantly for getting through the season, think with a positive mindset. Instead of slowly counting down the days until it’s above 50 degrees, try to enjoy the present moment for what it is; note things you’re looking forward to in each Month, whether it’s the pretty February snow, spring break in March, or a MarMon party in April.