This can be a discouraging time of the year. November is always the cloudiest month and December is the month of the winter solstice, Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year.
If you need some sunshine in your life, and we all do, we’re coming into the season of darkness and shadows. It’s the season of joy, good news and cheer for other reasons. But I’m talking about daylight and even, for some of us, the season of SAD: the seasonal affective disorder when the lack of sunshine leads to winter depression.
Depression can be like when our car battery is run down and it needs a jump start. It happens to all of us occasionally, that’s why most North Dakota and Minnesota drivers own jumper cables. The idea of the jumper cable is that energy can come from another source and occasionally we need a shot of it to jump start our own.
So, here is the owner’s guide to sources of energy to avoid a SAD winter.
First of all, we recognize that the sun is the best source of energy. So, some people who acknowledge their sensitivity to the lack of daylight need to take remedial steps. The sunlight provides vitamin D, of course, so some of them get a little jump from vitamin D tablets.
But, for many, more is needed. Some have light-therapy kits with artificial light (daylight simulation bulbs) and they sit in the glow of that light for exposure and energy. But if you don’t want an artificial light going, then open the blinds and sit near your windows. Or just painting the walls in brighter colors may even help.
When SAD hits, it can nudge the patient (victim?) to wanting to sleep more (even though sleep avoids them) so somehow they can try to sleep through their depression. Well, bears can do it – just hibernate and sleep until spring. But we can’t and we have to take steps to get out of the dumps.
Those who can get outdoors ought to. A short walk in natural daylight can do wonders – it boosts serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals. In fact, exercise can treat mild or moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. It helps to improve sleep too.
Loneliness saps energy. Friends and family can help the lonely. This is where we can borrow outside energy for a jump. Retreating into a shell has the opposite effect. If we can’t visit our friends or family, a call or an email can provide just the spark we need.
You may wish that an anti-SAD jumper cable would deliver cream pies and chocolate cakes, but it doesn’t work that way. Sugar just jams up our spark plugs and the SAD get sadder.
I hesitate to use the word “sensible” because the word itself can add to depression. But a sensible diet may help dig you out of this SAD dump.
Consider this. However miserable you are, there is somebody nearby who is more miserable than you are, and it may not be SAD misery, it may be health, finances, death in the family, tragedy or whatever. If you can arrange to visit with that person, once, twice or many times, your SAD will lose its gloom and you will have energy for somebody else.
You will find yourself on the power end of the jumper cable. There is an entire community of need out there waiting for a spark. You, of all people, may just have it.
Have a cheerful winter and avoid the news.