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!
Liz, I am sure your advice will help many people! Love you sister!
Lovely pictures, Eliza. I also take Vitamin D in the winter, and yes, it helps!
I know we’re approaching spring and warmer weather when the sun sneaks in through the windows to illuminate areas of the house that have been in shadows far too long. It’s quite refreshing.
Great info on SAD which I knew very little about and how you dealt with it; great images also.
Thanks for the compliment. Living in the tropics, lucky for you, SAD is not a problem! 🙂
That was a great post, Eliza! The pictures that you included were beyond beautiful. I was also hoping if you could please read my recent post that I posted on my blog yesterday. I promise, you won’t regret it! 🙂
Mucho gracias, Mayra, I’ve just discovered the real reason why I blog. 🙂
I take Vitamin D3 in the winter only, but I never had SAD. I just read somewhere that we need more D3 in the winter since our body does not produce it + those of us in the north need our sun during the winter:-). It is good to hear you no longer suffer those months in the winter. You are a very wise woman to figure that out since too often they just put us on all types of synthetic sources! It is hard this winter for it is TOO long:-( , but it will be spring soon!
Your pictures are lovely of your beautiful place, + your dog is adorable!
Yes, the research points to the fact that SAD is not a disorder of the mind, but a simple Vit.D deficiency, so easily rectified.
The farmhouse is my neighbor’s, who generously encourages us to walk their land freely. And thanks, yes, Ruby is a cutie, definitely a little deranged, but cute. 🙂
Oh, I thought the farmhouse was yours:-) Really beautiful farmhouse! To have all that land-( long sigh)…what beauty + you get to enjoy it every day..that is heaven!
Yes, I feel very blessed indeed!
Good MOrning Eliza,
Thank you for following my blog, I am following yours too. I love COnway. We both are interested in gardening i have been into permaculture on my small property. Many of my friends have SAD, I had read an article many years ago about D so I have taken it. I love the picture of Ruby. Carole
Thanks! Lovely snow today, the landscape is so white! Enjoy!
I LOVE this post and I wish those I love with winter mood issues would be open to your prescriptions. This just completely makes sense. Special interests unfortunately promote helplessness and drug solutions and too few people will entertain working with nature on things like this anymore.
I grew up in a rainy, cloud-covered (but beautiful) valley on Vancouver Island where S.A.D. could run rampant and now here near Toronto I feel trapped indoors for months by the hostility of our winters. You really have to have a strategy for these types of climates.
Thanks for the likes & comments. You have had a particularly brutal winter in your neck of the woods this year. Do you take Vit.D? So necessary! I also recommend finding a college or commercial greenhouse to visit on sunny days. It is a really mood booster if you can’t fly away for vacation to sunnier climes. We have Smith College nearby and they have a large range with a big, steamy, tropical palm house that has a bench for sitting. The only thing missing is the exotic bird and frog calls! (Need to get them to pipe that in!) My recent post about forcing bulbs points to another strategy to get us through the winter. Blessings!
I do try to remember to take Vitamin D–I have heaps of it in the house. Have you been to the butterfly conservatory in Niagara-on-the-Lake That’s a lovely greenhouse to visit in winter as well.
I agree about forcing bulbs, as well as cut forsythia once it’s warm enough: http://patinaandcompany.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/make-your-own-sunshine/
Sorry to say I have never been to Niagara. I’ve heard wonderful things about it.
Yes, I love forcing spring branches as well. I have a coral flowering quince hedge that is exquisite when trimmed & brought inside in late winter. One of my favorite photos of my tabby is of her resting like a buddha under a vase of quince. Thanks for the reminder, maybe I’ll go tomorrow & trim!
Eliza, it’s wonderful that you have found your own gently but effective cure for your SAD. Though our winters are less extreme here in South Australia, and though I wouldn’t say I suffer SAD, exactly, I do find myself growing both listless and agitated as winter approaches. The quality of light seems to change in the autumn months, so that everything seems somehow both harsh and glaring but dull and dreary, and it does something to me mentally that I can’t quite explain, except to say that it makes me feel constricted, physically and mentally. To combat this, I do much the same thing as you — I make myself get outside, no matter what. For myself, I have found, strangely, that the winter sunrises are what most cheer me — the sight of the pale sun climbing up over the horizon is such a blessing; it’s both fragile and reassuring, somehow. And the one good thing about winter is that you don’t have to get up ridiculously early to see it! I find that those winter sunrises are what get me through. Rebecca xo
That is true about not having to get up early in winter to see the sunrise. Summer is way too early, lol!
Vit.D really is essential and without the sun, my mood can plummet. Gray days are the worst! I’m happy the days are now growing longer.
Wishing you a great summer and a happy 2019!
I have several friends who have SAD You have given me many things to share with them.
Glad to hear it. Vit.D is so essential!