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It’s about that time of year. The leaves are changing colors, the weather is getting cooler, and the days are getting shorter. But with this change in scenery comes a not so pretty aspect…seasonal depression. Throughout the summer, we can get enough vitamin D to distract ourselves from our overthinking or anxiety but something about the transition from fall to winter can affect mental health dramatically. We can blame it on the cold weather or it getting dark out early, but the point is that seasonal depression is real, and staying healthy throughout it is crucial. 

To preface, managing mental health is a slow and long process, and coping mechanisms differ from person to person. With this being said, a suggestion to combat seasonal depression is to focus on personal health and wellness. There is no one way to go about promoting self-love. Self-love and wellness can be considered as staying in bed when you need to or having a set morning routine to get your day going. In this article, I will focus on healthy habits that can promote a happy mental space during the colder seasons. 

One way to combat seasonal depression is having a set morning routine. This routine can be as simple or as complex as you’d like but starting with a realistic time to get up. Personally, I try to wake up by nine but we’re all human and it doesn’t always happen, and that is okay! Another aspect of any addition to wellness is to be kind to yourself and don’t be too hard if you missed a day or two of your routine. Waking up at the same time can eventually train your body to be ready for the day at a particular time. The next step is to not go on any device! This can promote a clear headspace and improve productivity! Not getting sucked into TikTok at 9 a.m. sounds like a good plan. Next is to journal or to mindfully think about the things you wish to get done throughout the day and also include what you’re grateful for. Starting your day off with some positive thoughts produces serotonin, the happy chemical in our brain, setting the mood for the day. 

After partaking in a little mindfulness activity, getting moving is next on the agenda. Putting some music on and simply moving around and dancing to it can do a lot for mental health. Of course make sure you don’t wake up any neighbors or roommates and also, enjoy this time to yourself, no one is watching, it’s just you and the music. Let it flow through you and have fun with it. Obviously, since childhood, we’ve always been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and rewarding yourself with food is considered a form of self-care! Maybe throw in some skincare or some coffee, whatever works for your morning and anything goes when it promotes happiness throughout your day. 

Morning routines can be one step toward combating seasonal depression, but another option, if you aren’t the biggest morning person (like myself) is physical activity. Exercising releases endorphins which trigger a positive reaction throughout your body. Not only does it promote a healthy coping mechanism it also promotes body awareness. When our bodies need something they can’t speak up and tell us “Hi, we need more fuel!” Although that would be ideal, we have to be intuitive with how our physical selves are as well as mentally. When seasonal depression hits, it is too easy to want to give up on moving around and sectioning off time throughout the day for a workout. I’m sure we’d much rather be wrapped up in a blanket sipping on warm cocoa or tea, and binge-watching the new season of “You” but… we can do that after a workout! An essential aspect of combating seasonal depression, in general, is to help our bodies get extra happy chemicals and physical activity is one of those ways! Not only does working out help mental headspaces, but it also helps keep our overall sleeves healthy. Fueling the body is not something that should ever be shameful. If you want a cupcake, eat it! Moderation is key but being kind to yourself shouldn’t be a give or take relationship. Being healthy and mindful of what you need physically and mentally is one of the ways you can show yourself love fighting off seasonal depression. 

Along with morning routines and physical activity, filling your life with people who make you happy and are understanding of you is crucial. Sometimes the best thing to combat seasonal depression is to fill your life with love and friends are a great outlet to do so. Not only can people light up your world, but energies among people can also enhance your own! Having a movie night with the girls or going out with friends creates feelings of love and companionship. Seasonal depression is real but isolation is generally not the answer. Again, everyone has different coping mechanisms, but feeling alone can really harm a positive mental headspace and the majority of the time, someone, somewhere, loves and cares. 

So, we’ve gone over a few possible ways to fight the major switch from hot to cold and bright to dark, but the moral of the story is no matter what, it is okay to feel and it is okay to not be okay sometimes. The light at the end of the tunnel is that there are always things to implement into your life that can help increase the positive chemicals and weed out seasonal depression. Seasonal depression will come and go and although it is cold there are so many warm things to look forward to. Focusing on kindness, love, and gratefulness can greatly improve a negative headspace. So, start with a solid morning routine, maybe add a workout to your day, and say goodbye to seasonal depression! 

Jackie Ailstock

George Mason University '23

Hey! my name is Jackie! I'm a junior studying Global Affairs at Mason! I love being outside and being active. Also always down for a spontaneous road trip!
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