University Park, IL,
17:16 PM

Eight Strategies to Battle Winter Blues

The Southland is thawing out as the mercury creeps up, but many Jaguars are still battling winter blues.

From late December through early January, we saw dangerously cold temperatures dipping well below zero. The National Weather Service says it hadn’t been that cold since 1936. Even the sun refused to come out.

But the heat is on the horizon, and temperatures are expected to hit 50 degrees later this week before dropping again. Meanwhile, GSU faculty and staff experts say the key to keeping warm and feeling cozy is simple chemistry: Boost your brain's endorphins, the body's feel-good chemicals that help fight anxiety and depression.

GSU Newsroom talked with Recreation and Fitness Program Director Dean Jennings and Senior Lecturer Tracey "Kim" Snow, COE Division of Psychology and Counseling. Here are their eight suggestions for easy pathways to your Happy Place, Jaguars:

Move it – Resist staying in your toasty bed ensconced in covers. Get up and move! Experts say even moderate exercise can help the brain produce endorphins to improve mood, thinking, and function.

“Just 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise five days a week can have a great impact on overall physical and mental health,’’ says Jennings.

So visit the campus fitness center to swim a few laps or sculpt your six pack, and then head off to Campus Dining for healthy eats—your body and your mind will benefit.

Make a Connection – It’s cold outside, so warm your heart by hanging with friends. Make a lunch date with a loved one. Visit the Student Life Center to explore community projects you might like. Feel good while doing good.

Pause Social Media – Though socialization is good, Snow says to make sure to stay in the real world.

“Research is now showing us that many people actually experience depression and anxiety that stem from using too much social media, such as Facebook and Snapchat, and not interacting enough in the ‘real’ world,’’ Snow said.

Random Acts of Kindness – Hold the door open for someone or freely offer a compliment. Simple gestures can make a difference in someone else's life as well as make ours feel better.

Be Mindful – Any sort of meditation practice or mindfulness activity helps us to stay in the present moment and out of our heads and negative thoughts. Just 15 minutes a day can bring improvements. Visit the Meditation and Interfaith Room at GSU. Professor Maristella Zell developed and coordinates the Holistic Social Work Practice concentration at GSU and co-developed the Mindfulness in the Helping Professions Certificate program. Dr. Zell also runs open mindfulness meditations on campus throughout the year.

Let the Light Shine – Our moods can change as the days grow shorter in late fall. When we don’t see the sun, we may experience irritability, lethargy, and depression. Try opening curtains and blinds and allow sunlight—nature’s antidepressant—to flood your dorm room.

Snow suggests using devices that mimic natural sunlight to increase good energy and decrease bad flow.

“Light bulbs from local hardware stores that simulate sun light cost as little as $10 to $12, and Himalayan Salt Lamps neutralize negative ions and radiate positive ions and energy into dorms and other living environments,” she said.

Learn Something New – Engaging your brain to master a new language or perfect your softball pitch makes you more than smart—it increases your happiness.

“Learning something enjoyable also increases our endorphins and helps us to feel better about ourselves as well as our lives,’’ Snow said.

Keep a Gratitude Journal – Close out the day by writing down three things that inspire gratitude. This shifts your perception to focusing on positive things in your life and can change your entire attitude.

Make it a great day!