As holidays and final exams near, people coop themselves in their homes and offices to shield from the weather, and while the indoors may be warmer, the environment can be colder.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression, impacts 10 million Americans and is caused when moods fluctuate due to changing weather. SAD affects people year-round, though the form of depression is most commonly associated with winter.

During the winter, days are shorter and less sunlight is accessible. Less sunshine can foster feelings of depression in some people, as sunlight provides boosts in serotonin and vitamin D.

Julia Weatherford, OU international studies and economics senior, called a bedroom without a window home last year. In Weatherford’s case, the windowless room caused her to spend more time outside of the space.

“That just wasn’t a great environment because it was always dark in my room,” Weatherford said. “The atmosphere was really depressing. I felt very claustrophobic, and I’m not claustrophobic.”

Weatherford had never had a windowless room before, which brought a new set of obstacles. A student heavily impacted by her surroundings, she resorted to decorating methods to make the room feel less closeted. 

Weatherford purchased a standing lamp with multiple settings of brightness and a nightlight to combat the room’s darkness. As for decorations, she displayed books, paintings, pictures and trinkets.


Photo of the room without windows. Photo by Julia Weatherford.

“Going from that space to a space with a window, I just feel better,” Weatherford said. “I like looking outside and having the windows open when I’m doing stuff. I don’t feel as closed in.”

David Boeck, an OU architecture professor currently teaching a study abroad program in Arezzo, Italy, takes his productivity a few steps further by stepping outside his Italian housing unit to complete work. 

“I can tell if I identify with a space by whether I can draw or not,” Boeck said. “When I’m outside, I can just sit there and enjoy the weather, and hearing people walk by in a public space gives me a lot of energy.”

Back at OU, Boeck’s office remains untouched since he left for Italy. Notes sit atop Boeck’s desk, books line his shelves and sketches cover the walls.

Boeck said he likes being surrounded by memories and color, which are details of his office that can be confirmed through photographs, conference awards and trinkets.

“I don’t have an office here (in Italy) like that,” Boeck said. “I’ve got a desk in my bedroom, and, of course, when I look out my windows, I can see a great big cathedral on the top of the hill. It’s not like I’m being deprived of anything, but that space is home to me.”

Annually, thousands of students experience the transition of leaving home for college and undergo shifts in identity, growing pains and newfound responsibilities.

Move-in day throws students into university life through meeting new neighbors and decorating new living environments. While students have creative freedom to decorate their spaces as they wish, OU prohibits certain actions and items.

In Couch and Walker centers, students are not allowed to nail items into the walls or use thumbtacks. Items like hot plates, extension cords and candles are also not allowed.

Despite these rules, students decorate their dorms and living spaces to the best of their abilities to make the space more inviting and homelike.

Johanna Geffre, Couch Center resident and psychology freshman, decorated her space to be a welcoming place to come home to daily.

Geffre decorated with simple, clean decor and illuminates her dorm through a sunset lamp that has multiple settings.

Walking past the on-campus residencies at night, multiple rooms are illuminated with bright pinks, greens, blues and more. The ambient lighting provides residents a different environment to the typical sunlit daytime.

“(My dorm) makes me feel more relaxed,” Geffre said. “Recently, I feel like I cannot get out of bed, and I think it’s because I rearranged my room.”

Geffre does not have a roommate and uses the extra space to separate her living space. She arranged her bed to face the window and used the provided furniture to create a nook around her bed for maximum comfort.

“Where my bed and my TV are is my chill, hang out area,” Geffre said. “Then, I have my work and makeup area on the other side.”

Having an area designated for work while keeping one’s bedroom separate is recommended, according to WeWork. For students living on campus, work-life balance allows them to create an invisible barrier between themselves and campus.

In the case of OU’s dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, the invisible barrier between work and personal life is a shorter walk.

David Surratt’s office in the Oklahoma Memorial Union includes three areas: a desk, a conference table and a couch. The three spaces are a necessity for Surratt, whose workload requires long hours and concentration.

“It’s functional in that, a lot of times, my day will start early, and I might be here as late as 9 p.m.,” Surratt said. “To get reenergized for the night, I might hit the couch for a second. I have the table for small meetings and to get to know people. Having them talk over a desk is kind of uncomfortable. I’m also introverted, so sometimes if I go a full day of meetings and I need to be up for a 7 p.m. student event, the nap is crucial.”

Dr. David Surratt

Dr. David Surratt’s office on Dec. 8.

Surratt said his work largely impacts faculty and students, so he has tried to decorate his office in a welcoming way with OU memorabilia, figurines of his favorite comic and movie characters, and gifts from loved ones. Surratt said that his office is where he is able to do his best thinking.

That sentiment extends beyond OU’s Union, dorms and classrooms. 

“You see the culture at OU’s campus. The environment and aesthetic of campus is very beautiful,” Surratt said. “I think that’s a point of pride for a lot of folks.”

As the temperatures drop and the campus adapts to the weather, student and faculty’s living spaces are important to beat the bitter feelings both inside and out.


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