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Donna Henes

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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Sunny Suggestions for the Light-lorn

Posted: 01/21/11 09:16 AM ET

Even though the post-solstice days are getting longer -- by approximately two minutes a day -- the accrual is so gradual that we don't really notice it for quite a few weeks. In the meantime, most of us quickly grow tired the dark days and cold nights of winter. The snow, the ice and the chilled wind keep us inside more than we might like. Some of us, however, are affected more than others. Folks who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder display symptoms of extreme SAD-ness: boredom, depression, exhaustion and burn out.

When these gloomy moods overtake us, we usually look for external stimulation rather than internal. But the winter-weary solution exists within ourselves. It is within that we can find greater control and empowerment.

The challenge is to see every day as a good day, with its own special charms and offers of pleasure and gratification. The trick is to shift our perception so that we are able to see and experience our situation, whatever it might be, in a more positive light.

Here are some strategies that we can employ to brighten our mood on even the darkest of days:

  • Changing your consciousness to a lighter one can be as simple as turning on a light. Every day during winter at about 4:00 PM, I turn on every light in every room of the house. This practice really goes against my upbringing, as well as my fervent Green tendencies. As a child, I was admonished to turn on a light only when I entered a room, and reminded to turn it off again when I left it. I couldn't agree more, but I find it cheering to have the lights all ablaze. And though it makes my electric bill more expensive, I figure it is way cheaper than therapy!
  • Even the smallest change in our environments, whether at home or at work, can lighten our moods and cheer our spirits. Moving things, even ever so slightly, can brighten our field of vision. Try rearranging your altar items, changing around your knick-knacks or moving a piece of furniture from here to there.
  • Raise the blinds during the day, throw open the shutters and curtains and let the light shine in. Sit by a window and look out, gaze meditatively within or read. Bask in the warmth and absorb the light.
  • Bring flowers and tropical plants into your house and office. Their lush greenery and fragrant blossoms -- reminiscent of summer -- will surely perk you up.
  • Light candles on your altar, on the dinner table and at your bedside. Try a candlelight meditation. Breathe in the flickering light and absorb it in your heart. As the Chinese proverb advises, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
  • Wear bright colors and sparkly jewelry. Dye your hair. Paint your toenails. Eat colorful foods and decorate the table with cheery linens, china and centerpieces. Listen to lively music.
  • Cook with lots of spices. Warm yourself from the inside out with soups and stews redolent with cayenne and curry. Drink ginger tea and cider steeped in cinnamon. These are all blood warmers.
  • Exercise to stimulate and bring warmth and energy to your body. Try some new classes in pilates, yoga, martial arts or weight training. Put on some hot salsa music and dance your butt off.
  • Go outside at some point in the early afternoon at the height of the sun, however bleak it might be. This will reset your biological clock and counteract the effects of SAD.
  • Dress warmly and take walks in nature, be it in the country or an urban park. Appreciate the stark winter landscape; the sculptural branch formations of the bare trees; the subtle, delicate shades of dried grasses; the moody hues of the clouds; and the sparkling ice crystals that form on leaves, bark and water. Enjoy the glorious beauty of the season.
  • Take long, hot baths with fragrant scents, soothing music and more candlelight. Dress your bed in cozy flannel sheets and down comforters, then spend more time there -- resting, recharging, regenerating.
  • Massage yourself with luxurious heated oils. Feel the warmth suffuse your body with relaxation and comfort. Massage someone else with warm hands and heart. Light the sex fires and share the body heat of desire.
  • Connect with sunny, cheerful, positive people. Whiners and complainers drain our energy and deplete our inner reserves, making us feel tired and depressed.
  • Volunteer for a political or charitable organization. Feeling useful charges our batteries. Sharing with the needy warms our hearts and gives us an inner glow.

Before you know it, spring will be here and you will enter the sunny part of the year with a bright spirit and a lightness of being.

People are like stained glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
-- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

 
 
 

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