Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

As leaves turn auburn, clocks rewind back an hour, and cold fronts settle in during the fall, everyday activities become that much more challenging to follow through. The term seasonal depression is commonly used for this time of the year, when the days are dark and gloomy. Lack of exposure to vitamin D during winter can affect our mood, health, and overall lifestyle. It’s crucial that we get through the long, winter months with hope and motivation.

As a college student, fall semesters are always the hardest for me. During this time, I often notice a pattern in my daily life. I feel awfully lonely, less inclined to be active, and less productive. I’ve always struggled to pull myself away from this pattern and for the longest time I gave in to the effects of my winter blues. This fall, things turned out to be different and I feel like I’m a much better version of myself. The year hasn’t been easy by any means and I haven’t gotten rid of my depression either. It wasn’t a swift wave of a wand in the air and “poof”, my battles against depression disappears. It’s more about the work that I put in to myself this semester in order to stand tall and proud of how far I’ve come today.

Over the summer break, I purchased my first copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is one of the most read and bestselling books in the world. Many of my idols that I look up to for inspiration have recommended this book for its powerful messages and huge difference in their lives. As an avid reader, I had to give it a chance. The story of The Alchemist is mystical, about a shepherd boy from Andalusia. Santiago’s life changes the moment he finds out about a treasure quest. During his journey, he finds more than a treasure along the way. He finds wisdom about the complexities of life and the importance of chasing our dreams. Quotes from this book really resonate with me, they leave me pondering about my own journey. One of the most effective changes that I applied during my fall semester is shifting my attitude from “I can’t” to “I can, and I will”. But I understand that sometimes what we tell ourselves doesn’t always help with how we feel in those weak moments. What’s helped me is to revisit my favorite quotes that I wrote down on a piece of notebook paper while I finished reading this book. I found that while I struggled to keep my head up, connecting the meaning of these quotes to my personal life was motivational and inspiring.

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

This year alone every time I chased after my goals, new challenges presented themselves. It seemed impossible to get through it and I felt discouraged. We’re often afraid of failing, but the truth is failures teach us so much more than any success ever could. Without my setbacks, I wouldn’t know how to differentiate my weaknesses from my strengths. During times of despair, we can learn more about ourselves and then improve on the things we wish to do differently.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

I am a big advocate for self-evaluation and self-improvement. When I was in a relationship earlier this year, I was simultaneously working on myself to be a better version of the person I aspired to be. But I carried that concept of self-love even after the relationship ended because in order to make my dreams come true, I must continue to take care of my mind and soul. This mantra has helped me through most of my heartbreaks and pain. But more importantly, it’s taught me how much love I have to offer to this world.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

This is by far one of my most cherished quotes from any book I’ve ever read. I am a wanderer and a traveler by nature, and this year I went on a trip to Europe where I stumbled upon answers to questions, I didn’t know I had. When I re-read this occasionally, I am reminded of the beauty in moments that pass us by. It gives me a sense of gratitude for all the little things in life that make living here on Earth so meaningful and profound. When we add meaning and purpose to the life we’re living, it motivates us to keep pushing forward.

After reading this book, facing the harsh, winter days was much more bearable. It allowed me to carry willpower and hope in my heart. There are many different coping methods for winter blues, but for me one of the life changing decisions was applying the wisdom from this book onto my real life.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis