By: Claire Donohoe
October 21, 2023
As many Michiganders know, the colder months are a big part of the year. The fall and winter months are full of activities like apple picking, planning for the holidays, sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte, or even bringing your favorite sweater out of the closet to back to school season and adjusting to a new routine.
However, residents of the mitten can also find themselves facing a challenge at the turn of the weather. Seasonal affective disorder—known to some as seasonal depression—is a common experience for many who live where the weather gets cold and the sky grows dark early in the day. As the temperature drops so can our moods, and it can get in the way of our plans, goals, and hopes for the year.
In Kim Ward’s MSU Today “Ask the Expert” article, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Hanne Hoffmann said that SAD is a type of depression related to changing seasons, and is caused primarily by changes in day length and light exposure.
Hoffmann said, “studies indicate that as many as 20% to 40% of people living at approximately the same latitude as Michigan experience some degree of SAD in the winter.” And women experience it “four times more frequently than men.”
So how can people—as both students and Michiganders—stay on track both mentally and physically during these chillier months?
For starters, healthy practices like getting enough sleep, regularly engaging in movement or exercise, and consuming a balanced diet should be implemented all year round. Those susceptible to SAD are advised to also implement more Vitamin D into their days.
Additionally, there are plenty of things to do in Michigan as the leaves turn and snow falls. Grab some friends and go to an apple orchard, haunted house or hayride around Halloween time. Find some new sweaters, fall-themed comfort TV shows and movies and, of course, anything pumpkin-themed.
Winter months make space for picking up a new hobby, sports like skiing, snowboarding, hockey, or ice skating, or even holiday celebrations and baking.
Health is important all year round. Of course, while there are activities people can do to fill the days and spend time with loved ones, it’s important to address mental health needs as necessary. Consulting a mental health professional in addition to the activities mentioned above is also a good option.
Claire Donohoe is a junior majoring in English and Professional and Public Writing with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, hoping to either work in editing and publication or teach in her future. In her free time, she enjoys watching terrible reality TV, collecting funky jewelry and writing! You can find her creative work on Instagram @cwroteit.