Seasonal Light Solutions To Help You Through the Winter
Some of us in northern climes approach winter with a growing sense of dread — the days get shorter, the weather gets colder, and sooner or later many of us succumb to the "winter blues."
Severe and chronic seasonal depression is a serious issue and should be treated by a medical professional. However, for many of us, winter tends to bring on lesser problems along the line of "cabin fever" or "the blahs." There are, however, ways to weather winter, including seasonal light solutions and other positive habits that help fend off stress and sadness.
The winter blues aren't just a folksy saying — there are physiological (and psychological) reactions to how much sunlight we soak up on a daily basis. In the northern hemisphere, the tilt of the Earth means we get fewer winter daylight hours (and less direct sunlight) the further north we live. For example, around the Winter Solstice, Anchorage, Alaska, gets less than five hours of daylight, the northernmost part of Minnesota gets eight, while Miami, Florida, gets more than ten hours of sunshine each day. Shorter days mean less sunlight, which can mess with our biological clocks and circadian rhythms and bring about changes in our bodies' sleep schedules, our eating habits, and our moods.
That's why some people notice that during winter months they might sleep more, have less energy and interest in their usual activities, feel more irritable or moody, and may even want to eat more (especially foods heavy in carbohydrates). There are doctor-prescribed light therapies that include bright light boxes or dawn simulators, but if your symptoms are not that severe, there are other things you can do on a daily basis to fight off the blues or blahs.
Let the Light In
- Throw open the shutters. Seasonal light solutions can be as simple as opening up the blinds and curtains and removing things (like tree branches) that block sun-facing windows.
- Sit in the sunlight. Move your desk or kitchen table into an area that's getting more sunshine. Take some time during the day to sit near a bright window and read or work. Mornings are a good time to grab some extra sunlight exposure, as it can both help keep your biological clock set right and raise your spirits for the rest of the day.