Image by Tumisu from Pixabay
Winter is hard. There is no way around that. It’s cold, harsh and, most importantly, dark. One of the worst experiences nearly all of us share has been getting up and going to school or work in the dark and then again, at the end of a long day, going home in the dark. It can seem at times to be a place frozen in perpetual nighttime.
Here in the Upper Peninsula, there are only eight to nine hours of solid daylight during the worst of winter. This means that the sun rises around eight or nine in the morning and sets around five o’clock in the afternoon. Vitamin D deficiency is an accepted and understood consequence of our decision to live in this area and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) runs rampant through our community. People just straight up lose the will to live in between fall and spring.
Some people relish this time of year. They see this opportunity to get out into the great outdoors during below freezing temperatures as a thing to be celebrated, spending as much time as possible on the slopes, in the woods, or on the ice. Those of us who are less excited about this time of year still benefit greatly from time spent outdoors. However, very few have much available time to spend on these activities when bogged down with work or school.
In normal circumstances, between four to eight of the wintertime daylight hours are spent either at school or at work. This significantly reduces the amount of time we are able to spend in the sun, leading to further decreases in our ability to regulate our Vitamin D levels and an increase in the likelihood of developing mental health issues related to the difficult season.
Asynchronous classes have allowed people to live as they were meant to during this season in order to be their healthiest selves. For those taking advantage of this strange year in education, a whole new Upper Peninsula has been discovered. These students have been able to pursue rewarding physical activity during the few hours of daylight we get and then work on their schoolwork in the afternoon and evening, when it is too dark to do anything else. This is extremely important in these odd times, when we are kept from true social interaction. Many professors seem to believe that synchronizing their online classes is beneficial due to the fact that it provides both structure and some socialization for students. While this may be true in some cases, it is my belief that many (if not the majority) of these students would benefit even more by having the ability to get outside during regular class hours.