With more than 20 different species of blooming orchids and the scent of fresh flowers, the Chicago Botanical Garden’s annual orchid show is a perfect escape from the bitter Chicago winter. This years “In The Tropics” show opened on Feb. 9, and dazzles viewers with a diverse variety of orchids native to the islands and beaches of the South Pacific.
Despite the Chicago Botanical Gardens surface level appearance of being nothing more than a sanctuary for flower and garden lovers, events like the orchid show play a massive role in helping Chicagoans to get out of a winter rut and prevent feelings of seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined by Marquez Wilson, a pre-doctoral extern at Roosevelt Universitys counseling center, as a “temporary series of depressive symptoms that accompany the transitions between seasons.”
These feelings of seasonal depression are a result of the many factors that accompany shifts in weather, the most significant of which being a lack of sunlight and vitamin D.
According to Wilson, a lack of vitamin D can lead to significant changes in mental and psychical health such as increased moodiness and an irregular sleep schedule. The human body naturally produces vitamin D after being exposed to the sun, which is more difficult during the rainy and snowy months. As explained by Wilson, vitamin D functions similarly to a hormone and people can easily fall into a depressive state without regular intake from the sun.
“Chicago has long winters,” said Wilson. “People choose to stay inside and wear more clothing, meaning that any sunlight we might get does not actually hit our skin.”
Staying active and going to places such as the Chicago Botanical Garden are just two of the many ways that Chicagoans can tackle feelings of seasonal depression. Visitors can enjoy the warmth of a humid garden and the sensation of being able to take off their winter jackets.
According to Buehler Garden Coordinator Alicia Green, there is a definite link between an improved mood and interacting with nature.
“Spending time interacting with plants and nature improves human functioning by reducing stress,” Green said. Reducing the stresses of the winter season is an essential part in avoiding seasonal affective disorder, and Green said she recommends individuals to have a level of “contact with nature” throughout the winter season.
Wilson and Green both agreed that stress can be reduced by going to events such as the orchid show and choosing to maintain an active lifestyle, as these are effective methods of managing or preventing seasonal depression.
“If you are active in the summertime, then the sudden decrease in activity when winter comes is probably going to affect your mood,” said Wilson. “It is so important to move around.”
If seasonal affective disorder or a vitamin D deficiency is suspected, Wilson advises Roosevelt University students to access a personal care doctor. Wilson also recommends eating a healthy diet or purchasing a “sun lamp,” a series of intense light bulbs that work to trick the body into naturally producing vitamin-D. If symptoms do not improve, Wilson encourages students to contact Roosevelt’s Counseling Center, which is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.