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How to Stay Away from the November Blues

An Amateur Guide

My University Campus, November 10 2017

I don't know about you, but for as long as I remember, I've noticed this trend: the beginning of November is also the beginning of a dip in emotion. 

I notice it in myself, my roommates and I have talked about it, my other friends, my parents and my sister—in short, almost all the people I've come across in the last few days have agreed that at this time of year, at least in southern Ontario, they notice their mood is consistently worse for a significant period of time. 

Honestly, it's not too big of a surprise. The weather at this point is worse because the sun sets so early, it's often midterm season (at least for us students!), flu season is upon us, and the list can go on. It's just a rough time all around. This is around the time that SAD, seasonal affective disorder, starts to rear its ugly head. I know that, for myself, I start coasting by in school. I'm paying so much money for class and, yet, my mindset is constantly "I just need to pass." I do the bare minimum and I'm happy with a passing grade. And then I feel bad about myself for not doing as well.

The last few weeks, I've gone through midterms. I've had projects due. I've had weekly quizzes and discussion posts and I've had to go to class, and on top of that, I'm very involved and I work every day. And now? I'm definitely feeling the November dip. I can't help but wonder: Isn't there a better way? I can't spend a whole month, or longer, feeling this crummy. This is where the research comes in.

SAD Lamps

SAD Lamps are a pretty recent invention that have been used to simulate sunshine and help with moods. The creators of SAD Lamps base their product off the belief that SAD is often caused by the lower amount of sunshine as the seasons go on, which throws off circadian rhythms (ie: our 24 hour living process), which causes SAD. It's a vicious cycle, honestly. According to the American Psychological Association, heliotherapy (aka light therapy) is the most widely used tactic for helping SAD. I remember being part of a mental health initiative at my school that entertained the idea of getting SAD lamps for a while, but we never really got the support for it. Nevertheless, I think it would be worth it to try it. Maybe it wouldn't "cure" anyone, but it might help out with the blues, and feeling kinda good is better than not feeling good at all.

Mindfulness

Photo from iStock

Mindfulness has become a pretty popular psychological process for helping people notice the "now" and appreciate what they have. It's thought to help create positive memories in the moment, that can later be used to reign in destructive feelings. When I practice mindfulness, I like to rely on my senses. I think about what I'm tasting in that moment—sometimes I can't discern a taste, and that's okay, too. What do I hear? What do I feel? What do I see? What do I smell? Sometimes I only get through a few before I'm too distracted, or I have to keep moving. It takes a while to get into the groove of it, but it's worked for me. I'm not as mindful as I'd like to be, but I definitely recommend it to almost everyone that I know. I really think it's a good way of putting things in perspective. It's hard to know if you're doing mindfulness correctly, but if it's something you'd really like to pursue, there are tons of articles that can be helpful, and even apps that teach you mindfulness.

Being Grateful

I know that a lot of this is starting to sound like really fluffy, unhelpful suggestions that you can find on any blog. But, really, these are things that are supposed to boost you up just a little bit, and they're things that genuinely help me, at least to some extent.

One of these things is a gratitude log—or practicing gratitude in general. Every night, before going to bed, I take a moment to think about the day, and I write down what I'm thankful for. Sometimes it's not the best, and I write something like "finally getting the chance to go to bed." Other days, it's something like, "the beautiful colours of Autumn." What you are grateful for and how you are grateful for it is in your hands. But, taking a moment to write down even one thing—as mundane as it might be—will help with lifting your mood. A study done by Dr.Robert Emmons and his colleague Michael McCullough, as reported by Psychology Today, suggested that, yes, gratitude did manifest in a more positive outlook. The people that they studied reported feeling better after 10 weeks of writing weekly gratitude journals.

I don't do quite the same thing, and, of course, as is the nature of psychology, this doesn't apply to everyone. But, hey, isn't it worth trying it? If you're in a rut and you've gone as far as to search how to help yourself get out of it, you may as well take the plunge and try whatever you can. 

Anyway, as the title says, this is an amateur guide. Just like every other person, I'm someone that struggles with feeling down. I'm not ashamed to say that, while I don't have SAD, I do have depression, and it gets worse around this time of year. I know how much it can suck, and if I can help someone—even one person—find a way to feel better, then I'm gonna do that. 

Keep your chin up. I'll see you on the other side (of winter).

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