Wisconsin is notorious for its extensive, brutal winters. Because of this, it’s a shock to many that UW-Madison has been able to maintain 40,000 undergraduate students for almost 40 years. As temperatures dropped to negative twenties towards the end of January, it has become commonplace to hear students exchanging questions as to why they chose to study in the Midwest at all.
“It’s not the cold that affects me,” says a sophomore, Biochemistry major, who chooses to remain anonymous. “It’s the constant grey skies and the early darkness that keeps me indoors.”
Winter months consist of 5 p.m sunsets until daylight savings time springs us forward in March. According to Medical News Today, shorter exposures to sunlight alter circadian rhythms and diminish Vitamin D intake, both linked to depression. Early darkness seeping through the windows induces sleepiness. Doctors encourage those with depressive qualities in the winter to find fifteen minutes to get sunlight outside. As many Wisconsinites know, fifteen minutes outside can be brutal.
“Nothing is worth the wind burn. I have to work up the courage to make it to class,” explained Carly Paul, a sophomore at UW. Carly added that few of her friends are willing to brave the cold to meet up, therefore she spends more days inside and alone during the winter than in warmer seasons.
Other UW students go as far as saying that the brisk, gloomy days diminish creativity, motivation to work and ability to think clearly. “I wear baggy clothes when it’s cold, so it’s not as if I have to expose my summertime body now,” one of them said. “So my motivation to exercise is even less in the winter.”
In addition to receiving the medicinal benefits of Vitamin D, exercise can change the negative implications of winter. The Mayo Clinic observes that exercise not only improves energy levels but also increases the production of endorphins, also known as ‘feel-good neurotransmitters.’ Unless students are lucky enough to live in a complex with a gym, building up the motivation to walk outside to a workout facility is another obstacle they must overcome.
To put it simply, after consulting with a multitude of UW students, the most ideal way to beat the winter dilemma is to make the most out of it. These months of solitude-inducing climates may force students to get to know and better themselves. Instead of stationary activities, like watching television, students are encouraged to find new indoor hobbies like writing, meditation and art projects. These alternatives may also assist students in handling future high-stress environments. Meditation specifically combats stress, inability to concentrate and targets inner creativity.
Despite all of the negative consequences that winter is associated with, each student interviewed does not regret choosing to attend UW.
“Winter weather is a mutual enemy for everyone, so we band together and make the most out of it,” Koehn said. Many of the students identified their fortune to experience all four seasons, emphasizing that not all parts of the country are subject to such low temperatures.
Wisconsin has always been proud of its ‘go big or go home’ attitude, so it’s no shock that they maintain their degree of pride during the winter treachery too.