It is a known fact that people have a hard time during the winter. The holidays create loads of stress, the gloomy weather puts us into a sad slump, and now with the Coronavirus pandemic on the rise again, this winter will be harder than ever. In order to make this season great, we have to actively try to make the best of it! Years of research have proven that the key to happiness is “a sense of social connectedness” (Vox.com). With the spread of COVID-19 still happening, we’re here to share some ideas on how to stay happy throughout the season while staying safe:
Staying Physically Active
According to the CDC, keeping up with regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your body. Along with the physical benefits, muscle strengthening and toning, and decreased likelihood of heart disease and Type II diabetes, exercise has many other immediate effects. Exercise has proven to increase cognition in people of all ages, and drastically reduce the risk of sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. It is hard to stay active in the colder months, especially when stuck indoors, so GVSU has lots of virtual workout options to use at home!
Keeping Up With Mental Health
As mentioned before, physical activity can improve mental health, but for those who struggle to exercise regularly, focusing solely on your mental well-being is ok too! One thing that scientists have found to promote a healthy mind is to focus on the idea of your “smaller self.” This is defined as a “healthy sense of proportion between your own self and the bigger picture of the world around you” (Vox.com). In doing this, you are able to focus on the smaller things around you that truly matter. When worrying about things you can’t control, you put yourself in great distress, without an answer that will satisfy you.
Time with Family (or Not)
Many students may be heading back to their family home for the holidays, and it’s important to prepare for it being different. Your room may have been changed, your routine and your family’s routine has changed, and your thoughts/beliefs may have changed. The best way to prepare for the trip home? Make a plan ahead of time.
- Don’t be afraid to set yourself some boundaries and let your family know what those are.
- Take alone time when you need it.
- Prepare for tough conversations whether they are around politics or social injustice or what to eat for dinner. Know how you will respond.
- Know what to do if there might be a time where you don’t feel safe to be your authentic self (have a plan for another place to stay or ride back to campus, etc).
Making a Hygge Home
Making your home, or apartment, a place of comfort can greatly improve your mental health. In Denmark, an important aspect of everyday life is hygge. Pronounced hoo-gah , the word’s closest literal translation means “coziness” and embodies the essence of it as well. The Danes created hygge to cope with the cold, dark, unbearable winters in Denmark. As Michigan begins to feel like the arctic circle this winter, hygge would be great to incorporate into your living space as well!
- Light lots of candles, incense, wax melts, or diffuse essential oils to fill your home with a comforting aroma. Some scents that are known to reduce stress are lavender, lemongrass, and sage.
- Hang string lights throughout the room to give off a subtle glow and warm ambiance.
- Drink coffee or tea in the mornings to get a cozy start on your days, and cuddle up with a warm tea or hot chocolate in the evenings to get your body ready for bed. Some flavors of calming tea include chamomile, valerian root, and lavender.
- Keep blankets and throw pillows out to create a welcoming and comforting environment for anyone that enters.
Hygge is known as “an art of creating intimacy” (HyggeHouse.com). There is no set way to “buy hygge,” because it's all about your own happiness. In the process of creating your own hygge home, remember to add what speaks to you! In doing this, you are able to focus on yourself and the important things around you. Staying happy during this season will be harder than ever because of the pandemic, but remembering to put your happiness before other things can relieve loads of stress for you this year.
By: Camryn Lane, WIT Peer Educator