Quick Fixes for Winter Depression
By Lindsay Keare
Published on Friday, February 1, 2013
It’s no secret that Hanover winters are generally pretty rough, and for some people they’re much rougher than for others. Seasonal Affective Disorder, which most commonly affects those from sunny climates, is all too real at Dartmouth. But fortunately there’s a lot one can do to combat it. Light therapy: Perhaps the most scientific way to fight SAD is by using a blue light machine (also known as a happy lamp, sun lamp or light therapy lamp). These machines, which look kind of like mini television monitors with blue screens, help the body fight SAD by mimicking daylight. The light from the machine hits the retina in the eye and is transferred via nerve impulses to the pineal gland, which regulates melatonin secretion and thus corrects chemical imbalances that result from decreased exposure to sunlight. As someone from California, I was freaked out about getting SAD and consequently started using a sun lamp back in the Fall. Some of my friends laughed at me, but I found other kindred spirits and we talked about holding sunlamp parties (which is kind of tough since you’re supposed to use them in the morning!). I don’t remember to use my sunlamp every day, but I also haven’t been feeling any lingering symptoms of SAD, so I’d say it’s working! And no, unfortunately they don’t give you a tan. Studying in bright rooms: Forget the Tower Room. If you have to be indoors, pass the time in rooms full of natural light. “I’ve been trying to maximize daylight hours [by] spending times in light rooms so that when the sun sets at like 3 p.m. I’m not terrified, since it’s setting at 6 p.m. back home,” Christie Harrison ’16, a Florida native, said. If you’re trying to reduce your chances of getting SAD, places like the Top of the Hop, Third or Fourth Floor Berry, the Fishbowl in Kemeny or certain study rooms in the dorms are good bets. Playing upbeat music also helps, so I don’t suggest listening to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Spending time outside: Perhaps this is a no brainer, but simply passing time outdoors goes a long way toward fighting SAD. Unlike students at colleges in cold-weather cities, Dartmouth students are lucky that we have such easy access to snow sports. Skating on Occom Pond, snowshoeing on the golf course and spending the day at the Skiway are just some of the many ways to experience the outdoors in and around Hanover. “I’m trying to pick up snowboarding this term,” Kevin Chen ’15 said. Chen, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, felt the effects of SAD last winter and is trying not to let that happen again. Exercise, eat well and sleep: Okay, so these things are no-brainers year-round, but they’re even more important in the winter when all you want to do is curl up under a blanket, watch television and eat Collis pasta. Taking a Zumba class, eating your veggies and hitting the sack at a reasonable hour will go a long way toward combatting SAD. And if all else fails, there’s always reverse psychology to help you beat the winter blues. “If I’m having a tough day, I watch an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ to put things in perspective,” said Michael Bessen ’16, a native of Las Vegas, NV, referencing a post-apocalyptic show in which a small band of survivors battles with a seemingly unending and ravenous zombie horde. That’s one way to do it.