I found myself in an all too familiar funk as I walked into Chestnut Hill Star Market. My condition—suffered by most Bostonians—derived its depressive qualities from the limited sunlight, frigid temperatures, and bone-dry air of the arctic months. Let’s call it the Boston winter slump.
The slump consumes most of the second semester, until the blissful warmth of spring returns to conquer it. The much-anticipated revival of daylight provides just enough hope to hold on until the more bearable latter months of the school year. Still, there is no doubt that the frost-bitten monotony of January and February requires a creative solution to stave off bleakness.
As I perused through Star Market, I came across the holiday-themed aisle, which all grocery stores tout prematurely at every monetarily advantageous occasion. At this time of year, the aisle is crammed with pink and red hearts and weary-looking stuffed bears. As I passed this row of red passion, I happened to catch a glimpse of some Valentine’s Day-themed Dove dark chocolates. I immediately grabbed a bag.
You might think treating yourself to some Dove chocolate is a simple self-indulgence, but the occasional morsel of dark chocolate packs some serious health benefits. For one thing, it tangibly makes you happier. It has been scientifically proven that polyphenols (the antioxidants found in cocoa), can reduce levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) in your body. Dark chocolate can quite literally improve your mood—a good thing to keep in mind as you gobble down a bar of Dove goodness.
Trivial as it may seem, understanding dark chocolate’s potential can provide an unlikely lifeline in times of need. For students at Boston College, life can get pretty hectic. Finding time to take care of yourself or mentally check out for a few hours can be a stressful process in and of itself. Because of this stalemate, I often find myself getting stuck in a deadly cycle. I either try to let off steam by being unproductive, or I push myself through work knowing that my brain is running on empty. The resulting downward spiral of frustration is only exacerbated when I start to get “hangry.”
This is why I decided to adopt a daily dark chocolate regimen into my life. I first discovered this hack during a mandated team-building exercise with my field hockey teammates—a meeting that people were less than thrilled about. But once the group leader brought out some chocolate, the low energy in the room turned to a buzz. It’s wild how something that small can exert that much influence over a group of people.
The instructor told us that dark chocolate does wonders for your mental health, and that it’s not a bad idea to start eating it every so often, especially if you’re feeling down. I don’t know if it was the sweet taste or the polyphenols, but the first bite instantly made me feel better. Something as quick and simple as a piece of chocolate a day is a recipe for success in my book. It allows me to feel less guilty about eating chocolate every day and gives me the subtle yet mighty sense of calm I need to escape my slump and get things done.
At this time of year in particular, Dove gets me through my day. Placebo effect or not, the act of eating chocolate helps to ground me. It serves as a break for me to do something other than whatever grueling assignment is due next. And who doesn’t love a sweet treat, especially around Valentine’s Day?
Whether it be a treat, a fun activity, or some other perk you know will mentally help you get through the day, I recommend finding one little thing to keep your spirits high. It’s easy to get swept up in the mundane and overcast days of our northeastern winters, and it’s easy to forget to treat yourself from time to time. But remember … life is sweeter with a bit of chocolate.