‘Tis the Season

Sadly, the warm sunny days of summer are now just a fond memory. The chilly days of autumn have arrived to take their place, and soon will be followed by the long, dark, cold days of winter. We’ve already seen our first snowfall here in Grand Forks. Rest assured that we’ll be seeing a lot more before all is said and done.

photo by Mike Lanciki

With its crisp days and deep blue skies, not to mention the incredible displays of color on the trees, the beginning of autumn is a favorite time of year for many people. This scene is fleeting though, being quickly replaced by a landscape largely devoid of the color and light that brought so much life to it mere weeks earlier.

Heavy Rain & High Winds – courtesy georgeworxs.com

A day like today really drives that point home. If you’ve had the good fortune to be able to stay inside and curl up with a good book and your favorite warm beverage, I’m happy for you – and maybe a tiny bit jealous at the same time. For the rest of us it’s miserable out there! The sky is dark and gray. It’s raw, cold, and rainy, plus the wind could blow you straight to Oklahoma if you’re not anchored down.

Sure, I’ve just painted a depressing picture. For many people, the word “depressing” isn’t just a figure of speech when used to describe such a scene. Depression truly does set in for a lot of folks at this time of year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects anywhere from one to ten percent of the population. Its prevalence increases as one travels northward, which is logical when you consider that it appears largely connected to the amount of sunlight a person receives. And let’s face it – there’s not nearly as much of it to go around in these parts once fall and winter move in.

Sunlight has a huge impact on the amounts of melatonin and seratonin our bodies produce. According to the Mayo Clinic these two chemicals affect our moods, plus melatonin can also alter sleep patterns. When seratonin levels drop and melatonin levels increase, as often happens with reduced sunlight exposure, the result can be depression.

Light box used to simulate sunlight for treatment of SAD – courtesy wikipedia.org

While it is possible to turn to antidepressants to overcome the effects of SAD, two more natural methods of treatment are also available. The first is packing up and moving to Barbados, which is blessed with an abundance of beautiful sunny weather year-round. You say that this method is beyond your means? …and your boss will fire you? Well then light therapy emerges as the more viable option. This involves using a light box like the one shown above to attempt to replace the sunlight we miss out on during the shorter days of fall and winter. It may not be that place in the sun that you’ve always dreamed of, but it’ll save you a ton of money and it should be enough to hold you over until spring gets here.

Mike Lanciki

One thought on “‘Tis the Season

  1. Once regarded skeptically by the experts, seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short, is now well established. Epidemiological studies estimate that its prevalence in the adult population ranges from 1.4 percent (Florida) to 9.7 percent (New Hampshire). Researchers have noted a similarity between SAD symptoms and seasonal changes in other mammals, particularly those that sensibly pass the dark winter hibernating in a warm hole. Animals have brain circuits that sense day length and control the timing of seasonal behavior.^;”"

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