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Maintaining Motivation Through the Winter Months

Morgan Keegan

During the short, dark winter days, your college student may find their motivation beginning to deteriorate. This is a common problem I've struggled with myself. Like many, I always attributed it to stress and mental burnout, but recently I discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to be the culprit.

What is SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to a change in season, and occurs typically around the same time each year. While it’s much more common for people with SAD to notice symptoms appearing at the beginning of fall through the winter months, it's also possible to experience SAD in the summer.

Waking up in complete darkness and seeing the sun go down at 4 p.m. isn’t everyone's ideal situation — in fact these tend to trigger our biological clocks to make us sleepier earlier. 

If the winter months tend to get you or your student down, here are some ways to combat SAD. 

Bright Light Therapy

Personally, light therapy has been the most effective in boosting my motivation throughout the winter months. Light therapy lamps are designed to mimic bright daylight without UV rays, and most have different brightness settings as well as timers. I like to face mine toward a white wall and let the light bounce all over the room.







Verilux® HappyLight® Lumi Plus

Wake-Up Lights

Similar to light therapy lamps, Wake-Up Lights are colored light alarm clocks that gradually brighten to mimic the way the sun rises instead of beeping loudly at a set time. This is a great option especially if waking up early is a way of life year-round. Many also come with sunset options to help you or your student fall asleep more easily. 

Touch-Activated Wake-Up Lamp

Exercise as Much as Possible

Exercise is vital to keep the mind and body healthy year-round, but this is especially true during the winter months. The endorphins released from exercise along with the production of internal heat definitely help ease symptoms of SAD.

Get Fresh Air

Getting fresh air is essential to feeling revived and awake. You can do this by going for a run, walk, hike, or even just opening your windows a bit.

Maintain an Old Hobby, or Discover a New One

When winter sets in and school becomes more time-consuming, it’s easy to forget about the things that we enjoy doing outside of being a student. SAD only further enables this forgetfulness.

Maybe you like to paint or draw, to journal, or even just to read for pleasure. Take some time out of the day to do something you truly enjoy to allow your brain to decompress and recharge.

While SAD affects people in different ways, if you or your student are struggling with SAD symptoms around this time of year, try out some of these tips in order to thrive in the winter months.

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Morgan Keegan is a Graphic Design Specialist and Content Creator for CollegiateParent. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Creative Writing, Journalism, and Communications. She grew up in Bronx, NY and enjoys painting, hanging out with her two cats, and taking care of her many plants.
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