The past ten years have brought increased awareness of a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder; also know as SAD or Winter Depression. Its symptoms are similar to depression. The main difference being that SAD occurs mainly during the winter. For many who suffer depression year round their symptoms get worse during the winter. Although much is still unknown it is generally believed that people who suffer from SAD are sensitive to the decline of light during the darker season.
Our exposure to light effects our hormone levels. Serotonin, a hormone associated with mood elevation, increases when you're exposed to bright light. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, decreases when we are exposed to light and increases with darkness. Increased melatonin tells our bodies it's time to rest. This may explain why we are more tired in the winter.
Many studies show that people suffering from seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light
A word of caution: Anyone suffering serious depressive symptoms should seek proper medical care.
Winter Blues If a lack of sunlight can cause depression in some, it stands to reason that it can cause subtle mood changes and other well-being issues in other individuals. Who hasn't felt the effect of increased gray days on their mood or energy level? Office workers are particularly prone to lack of sunlight, as many offices have no windows. We often find ourselves going to and from the office in the dark. We may even be unable to leave during lunch.
Our Friend Mr. Sun In addition to its effects on our hormone levels and mood, we need direct sunlight in order to produce Vitamin D. The sun has gotten a bad rap lately because of skin cancer. That doesn't mean that you can't use common sense and still get the sun you need year round. Minimize direct exposure by limiting your time in the sun during the summer, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm. During winter this is much less a problem. Vitamin D production does require our skin be in direct light, but just viewing sunlight or sunlit areas through our eyes can provide mood benefits.
What Can We Do To Get More Light During Winter? Increasingly the use of full spectrum light bulbs or light boxes has been an effective treatment. You can search the Internet for more on these. Often times the simple and cheap is best. Although winter usually brings an increase in the number of overcast days there are still plenty of sunny days. Try these to take advantage of sunny days:
Take a drive in the country.
It may be cold and windy outside but your car shields you from the wind. With windows all around your car becomes a green house. On a sunny day it can get downright warm in the car. Drive towards someplace you enjoy during the warm days or just pick a country road you aren’t familiar with and follow where it takes you. Soak up the rays.
Visit The Zoo
The Desert Dome is a great place to spend an enjoyable hour and get some quality sunlight. It’s indoors so you are warm but as you walk amongst the rock you move in and out of the sunlight streaming in through the glass dome. You are also likely to find fewer people than when you visit during warmer weather.
Find a Public Place With Sunlight Exposure
I frequently visit a coffee shop that has all glass to the south. On sunny days, if I sit by these windows, I am bathed in sunlight through much of the morning hours.
Find the Sunny Parts of Your House
As I write this I am sitting at a desk in front of a window facing east that provides direct sunlight during the early morning. During the later morning and early afternoon a picture window in my living room facing south bathes my couch in sunlight. Even sitting in another part of the room I can get benefits from this light.
Find Places In Your Office With Sunlight
I used to work in a high-rise building that had no windows on my floor. I did find a room that was unused on another floor that still had a chair in it. I often sat by the window and read during breaks.
Get Outside When the Weather Permits
Cold windy days may not be conducive to being outdoors but watch for sunny days when the wind is slight or the temperature is higher. Break the rut of staying in for lunch during work. Even a 5- minute walk can help. When you’re not working look for places that are naturally shielded from winds. These can be more comfortable to walk in.
Take Comfort in The Fact That This Isn’t Forever
In the fall the days get increasingly shorter. When we reach the Winter Solstice, Dec 21, 2008 at 6: 04 CST , we reach the shortest day and the longest night. This is the point in time, for those north of the equator, when we are farthest from the sun. From that point on our days start getting longer again!
Soak up the rays!
Don’t worry that you aren’t doing enough to get sunlight. Enjoy the moment you do spend and know that it is benefiting you right now.
Ric Chamberlin Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ® Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska The Healing Connection 900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE 68114 402 850 0752