It’s that time of year again; the temperatures are dropping below freezing (and by this I mean below 70 degrees in LA), and it’s pitch black out before it feels like I even had a chance to fully wake up (and by this I mean 4:30pm). I don’t know why I act so shocked every time daylight savings comes around– it’s a biannual occurrence that we all have to deal with. This doesn’t stop me from complaining every day about it being too cold and too dark too early. If you are in my vicinity at the dreaded time of 4:30-5:30pm, I guarantee you will hear a constant mumble of, “I can’t believe it’s only 5pm…it feels like 10!” 

What also doesn’t come as a surprise is the negative impact this time of year can have on peoples’ mental health. I certainly feel my energy levels, motivation, and overall happiness slipping during the dark and cold months. Here are a few ways that I’ve been able to make this time period more enjoyable. 

Making plans in advance post-5pm 

This is a very general tip, but an essential one. If I already know I have something to do after it gets dark, it will force me to get out of the house and not get into a slump for the evening. Even if the plans are at your house, knowing that someone is coming over will prevent naps. Being surrounded by people you love and doing fun activities with them is always a mood booster. 

Try new foods each hang out! 

I couldn’t just say “have plans” without providing options for plans. A classic activity that also nourishes your body is eating! To get out of a monotonous routine, my friends and I have started going to a new restaurant each time we go out to eat, or trying new foods at the restaurants we always go to. If looking for a more budget-friendly option, cooking at home can be just as- if not more- fun. Look up a new recipe, light a candle, pour yourselves a drink, and the night will immediately feel brighter. Both of these options are also doable as solo activities. 

Self-care night 

I am not the first nor the last to preach the importance of a self-care night. As much as I am a social person, I also need my alone time, especially during the winter where everything feels more draining. The nights I spend with myself can still feel fun, relaxing, and/or productive as long as an activity is still happening.

For me, a self-care night activity includes making mac and cheese (boxed, because this is not one of those self-proclaimed cooking nights as explained above), pouring myself a cup of hot chocolate (do those things even go together?), then jumping right back into bed and putting on a movie.I also enjoy the spa nights where I do THE shower (you know what I mean) and then pamper myself with face masks and painting my nails. I also enjoy blasting music and having a dance party, but this is only doable when my roommates aren’t home (unless they want to join).

Nights like these provide the ultimate comfort and reset. It is important to have a balance between self-care nights and more social activities so that I don’t end up digging myself into a deeper hole and feel like I’m just rotting away in bed. 

Keep the lights on in your house (I'm sorry in advance for your electricity bill) 

I cannot stress this one enough. If I don’t have the lights on when the sun is setting, there’s no hope for me because I either spend the next 2 hours sitting in the dark on my phone scrolling on TikTok unaware of how much time is passing, or I simply fall asleep. Keeping the lights on will keep you more awake. Invest in a lamp, or maybe some fun LEDs or twinkly lights. My roommate has a sunset lamp and many fun LED signs that make the room cozy and colorful.

I don’t care if these three points are the most basic things in the world; going back to the basics never hurt anyone. These simple things have already helped me get through the beginning of winter. As simple as it seems, it is hard to find the motivation to stay energetic, to stay happy, to be productive, etc. I’m hoping the groundhog does indeed see his shadow in a few months so that spring comes sooner (or is it the opposite? I’m not sure). As I finish this piece, it’s actually 10pm and not just feeling like 10pm, so it is an appropriate time to doze off to sleep! I hope this helps, and as the holidays approach, there will be even more opportunities for wonderfully distracting festivities.