Every year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are moved back an hour at 2 a.m. local daylight time. When this happens, It takes our minds and bodies several weeks to adjust to the time change. On top of that, the early evening darkness can wreak havoc on our overall mood due to a reduction in the amount of sunlight we receive.
Research tells us that 4-6% of the American population will experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the reduction of light. Another 10 - 20% will experience a mild version of SAD. Some of the symptoms of this disorder include: sadness, anxiety, lost interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, and despair. The good news is that these symptoms tend to resolve by spring when sunlight increases.
There’s evidence to support a positive way to combat some of the issues caused by DST and the reduction in sunlight, and it involves writing!
Many mental health experts recommend journal writing as a way to improve our mood and manage symptoms for depression! Of course, it’s not a cure, but there are plenty of benefits to writing down our thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. Journal writing can help us become more self-aware so that we can: (a) manage anxiety, (b) reduce stress, and (c) prioritize problems, fears, and concerns.
Studies suggest that when you write down a list of positive events (3-5) and why the events made you happy, a person’s overall optimism and happiness tends to increase while self-reported stress levels go down. Each “Gratitude Journal” entry can also include a picture, which adds bonus points towards increased joy!
Here are a few writing prompts to get started with your own Gratitude Journal. This idea is rewarding for everyone, so get your students involved too!
Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.
What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?
What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?
Look out the window. What’s something you’re grateful for outside?
Think about the work that went into the clothes you wear or the house you live in.
If you had to give up all of your possessions but three, which three would you keep and why?
Write a thank you note to yourself.
Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.
Write about something you’re looking forward to.
Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.
Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?
Think back to the last time you laughed until you cried, and write about it.
List three things that made you smile this week.
Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.
Think about a time you were able to help someone else.
List three people who helped you through a tough situation.
Name someone who did something nice for you unprompted.