Combating the late-winter blahs


Photo by Kailani Zhang

Kailani Zhang, Special to The North Star

We’ve been facing freezing temperatures for months now. Especially for summer enthusiasts, this is the time of year when time seems to slow down and winter doesn’t seem to end. Although things are slowly starting to change, the nights are still long and the days are still short and cold. It becomes increasingly difficult, especially in the home stretch of winter, for people to get up in the dark mornings.

This is the case for Matthew Adler, a junior at North. 

“The fact that it’s dark when I wake up can easily take away my motivation to get ready for school,” Adler said. “And that’s exacerbated by the dreary conditions that I’ll meet when I step outside.” 

However, aside from the difficult mornings, Adler doesn’t find this time of year so bad. The SAT and AP exams are comfortably far away, and Adler settles in with balancing his classwork, robotics, and other extracurricular activities. Like Adler, 67.9% of surveyed students at Naperville North do not experience the late-winter blahs. How do the late-winter blah evaders do it? 

For a change of mindset, trying something new can combat the effects of the short, cold days. According to a study by the University of Utah, learning something new can stimulate chemical, structural, and functional changes in the brain. Such mindset changes can generate motivation, even during this time of year. Some activities the study listed include learning a new language, learning to play a new instrument, cooking new foods and listening to different music. 

“Neuroplasticity, or the capacity for our brain cells to change in response to our behavior, can help us more thoughtfully engage in activities that will contribute to our well-being–no matter our age,” Megan Call, a licensed psychologist at the University of Utah, said. 

Voluntary activities, such as working out, in general help increase motivation during the season. Twenty-five percent of surveyed students at North who do not feel the late-winter blahs play some sort of sport or work out to keep themselves energetic. Psychology Today emphasized the importance of exercise during the season. 

“Increasing your heart rate for 20 minutes three times per week can boost endorphins and combat low mood,” Joyce Martner, a contributor to Psychology Today, said in an article. 

In addition to physical activity, it is important to have a mixture of voluntary activities during the week. Keeping the same schedule everyday would get repetitive. Lucas Boynton, a junior at North, commits to a variety of activities, including baseball and auto club. 

“It gives a lot of diversity in what I’m doing so everyday is different, it doesn’t feel boring, it doesn’t feel like it’s like one after another, especially during February,” Boynton said. 

Shopping for birthday presents is another example of voluntary activity that could motivate someone during the leftover cold that seeps into March. For individuals who do not have friends with birthdays this time of year, shop ahead! 

“I usually go shopping a lot around this time because a lot of my friends’ birthdays are around this time,” Izabele Didzbalis, a sophomore at Naperville Central, said. 

Health advocate and social worker Allison Gremillion writes about color and its effect on mood. Psychologically “happy colors” include warm colors, while “energizing colors” do not necessarily have to be warm, but bold. Wearing “energizing” and “happy” colors may counter the late-winter blahs. 

“The brighter and lighter a color, the more happy and optimistic it will make you feel,” Gremillion said. 

For the mood change to work, it is important to keep an optimistic attitude as we head towards the spring. Although this is a difficult time based on the weather, mild temperatures lie ahead. Bad days and bad moods are bound to happen, and you can make use of various tools to work through them. 

“As long as you can accept the highs and lows that the seasons bring, they will never be able to get the best of you,” Adler said.