January Gloom and Beating the Winter Blues

Illustrated by Diane Kim

Sol Ladetzky

Contributing Writer

Returning to school at the end of any break is hard enough. After spending time in the comfort of family, with home-cooked meals, childhood beds, and few responsibilities, the last thing anyone wants to do is begin classes and start taking care of themselves, again. With the addition of rainy days and freezing nights, winter quarter feels even more daunting. However, students can also be rest assured that there are ways to fight this gloom and defeat winter blues.

This quarter started out especially discouraging. The day before school, my flight was delayed and barely departed due to the weather. The next day, I had to walk from class to class in the pouring rain. Minutes after a soaking bike ride home, I got my first email from a professor telling me that, because of the storm, the class was canceled the following day. Upset with the idea of being stuck in my dorm room, I could not help but think that this was going to be a long and cold winter. But, to my surprise, I woke up that morning to the sun and a blue sky. Later in the week, I had my first day of lectures without rain. The clear skies also cleared up my head, and I discovered that I am excited about all my classes. With the change in weather, I felt my attitude towards the quarter shifting too. However, as winter blues are just beginning, I know I need to work hard to keep this mindset. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, “winter blues” is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It is fairly common and marked by someone feeling more sad than usual, less energized, or less interested in activities they usually enjoy during the winter season. With short days, long nights, and a lack of sun, both the outside and our day-to-day lives are simply gloomy. As one’s natural biological clock follows sunlight, increased darkness creates less time for people to be awake and active, throwing the body off balance. Additionally, the lack of sunlight leads to a decrease in serotonin, a happiness hormone, and vitamin D, an important daily nutrient. Thus, according to the National Library of Medicine, less sunlight during the day means people are less happy and healthy. 

With bad weather and increased darkness, students are forced to spend more time inside compared to other quarters. While a lack of time outside is not preferable, it often becomes an excuse to take on a heavier workload. Like many other students, I originally decided to take an extra class this quarter. I told myself that if I was going to do it any quarter, now, when I am less likely to want to be spending time outside my dorm, would be the best time. However, after receiving all the syllabuses, assignments, and all the unnecessary amount of stress that came with them, I decided it was not worth it and dropped that extra class. As my coursework quickly picked up and the rain started again, I grew confident in my decision.

While it may seem like a good idea to take more classes when the weather is worse and the sunny fun that Santa Barbara usually has to offer is now less tempting, it still comes with disadvantages. More classes mean more work, which can increase stress levels. Mixing this with the lack of happiness associated with being inside causes winter blues to be enhanced. By creating a manageable workload, it is easier to work to maintain lower levels of winter blues. Additionally, it is important to create a schedule that does not fill every day, allowing for time to exercise or do other things that make you happy. 

Another way to beat winter blues is by creating a strict sleep routine that incorporates early, productive mornings. With little daytime in the winter, it is important to make the most of it. Waking up early allows one to enjoy more sunlight and increases energy levels. It brightens one’s mood, making them feel better throughout the day. Similarly, starting the morning productively leads to a more focused and efficient rest of the day, which can be particularly important in a college setting. 

Generally, the start of the winter quarter brings the start of winter blues. When it is cold, rainy, and dark outside, people can not help but feel somber. However, when made aware of winter blues, putting in the effort to beat them is simple. It is important to do the necessary work to ignore what it looks like outside and try to enjoy yourself while stuck inside. Keeping a strong sleep and daily routine will help me stay energized, productive, and happy throughout the day. Additionally, I plan to stay focused on my academics while still including time every day to take breaks. This quarter, I am looking forward to beating the winter blues.