I know I am.
This time of year is supposed to be a cheerful, happy time. The children are joyously outside playing in the snow. The city is strewn in festive colors. Happy lights twinkle on your neighbours’ houses and the the malls are alive with energy with people shopping for gifts for loved ones. Then, why is it that so many of us feel so lacklustre, so lethargic, so down in the dumps whenever November or December rolls around? After all, the post-holiday credit card bills haven’t showed up in your mailbox yet. The answer, my friends, is SAD.
Standing for Seasonal Affective Disorder (thank you Psychology major), it is a very common condition wherein the “sufferer”, so to speak, falls into a sort of depressive state around the same time of year, every year. Typically starting in late fall to early winter and subsiding when the birds re-emerge to sing their spring songs, Seasonal Affective Disorder can strip you of any sort of motivation. Instead of the festive lights and happy times that Christmastime is supposed to bring, you see the world in a dull shade of grey.
Why does SAD come about? There are several theories on the matter, but the most prominent is that the days are shorter. What this means is that when you first wake up in the morning, it is dark outside. When you get off work and start making your way back home, guess what? It is dark outside. Plants need the sun’s rays to survive, and it seems that we need that glowing orb to keep our spirits high as well. In this way, Seasonal Affective Disorder is far from being common in the tropics where they get plenty of sun all year round.
SAD sufferers typically feel exhausted through these winter months, not because of excessive physical exertion, but because the gloomy weather “wears them out.” I guess it’s even worse for folks like me who work from home, because I don’t really leave the house all that much anymore.
So, what’s the cure (other than just waiting it out)? When it’s not raining (a relative rarity in Vancouver), it certainly helps to take a brisk walk in the chilly winter air. To some, this can be quite invigorating. But personally, I find the things that help the most… well, it’s all quite simple. Good company, good conversation, and doing things that you enjoy the most. That, and plenty of light.
When you wake up in the morning, it may be dark outside, but if you have daylight-simulating lightbulbs in your home (I find “cool white” compact fluorescents work quite well), go ahead and turn them on. This is also effective for people with sleeping disorders as it “primes” your body, letting it know that is morning and it is time for you to get up and tackle the world. Really, we’re not all that different than the birds you can fool into sleeping by draping a dark cover on their cages.