Where I live, on February first our day length reaches ten hours. Hallelujah! Ever since reaching college age, I’ve dealt with SAD (seasonal defective disorder), so November first to February first has been a marathon of darkness to be pushed through. Often, by early January, I used to feel like I wanted to crawl out of my skin and just fly away into the sun. It was a physical condition and not “all in my head.”
At first, I medicated with antidepressants. I did not like that I was dependent on a chemical, it made me emotionally flat (no joyful highs, no sadness – those tearjerker commercials left me dry-eyed) and I worried what it was doing long term to my brain. Then I purchased a light box and faithfully sat in front of it at breakfast every morning for twenty minutes minimum, but some days with kids rushing off to school and then my starting a job, this became more difficult to do.
As more research became available, I began to formulate my own “cure.” I realized onset coincided soon after the day length slipped under ten hours. With the shorter days, the light is more dim and lacks the strength to trigger normal chemical reactions that our health depends upon. I started walking in the middle of the day, between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm when the sun was at its strongest, for a minimum of twenty minutes (sixty was even better).
There is a sunny field across from my house that reflects the light and increases its amplitude, so I’d take about twenty minutes to climb the hill, or just sit on a glacial erratic that rests in the middle, in order to get my fill of that lovely sun!
A friend suggested that I supplement with Vitamin D, since that was something we manufacture from exposure to the sun and I wasn’t getting enough of it. It turns out that the majority of people are Vitamin D deficient in winter or when they spend a lot of their time indoors. With our workaday and electronically-bound culture, this is a fact for millions of people. I’ve found 2000 i.u. Vitamin D supplement daily works wonders for me. Once I start going outside regularly in warmer weather, I eliminate the supplement.
I haven’t used the lightbox in years and the winter blues are a thing of the past for me. I hope that if you or someone you know suffers the winter doldrums, perhaps these suggestions may help. Walking in sunlight, D supplements and a healthy dose of daily gratitude has made me a happy camper…although I do like to fly south to a sunny clime for a vacation to recharge my batteries in January!