With temperatures running 10 to 15 (and even 25) degrees F below normal for weeks, snow on the ground, and most days looking like twilight at noon, I’ve found myself slipping into the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that I used to battle when I lived in the northern tier of states. Once I recognized the problem, I vowed to stay in control of my life. Scientific research over the past decade or more has given us the tools to fight SAD, wherever we live: get out when we can, increase cardiovascular exercise, and find (or make) green spaces.
SAD is caused by a deficiency of light. The most obvious way to fight it is to expose ourselves to as much natural light as possible. Folks who live in the far north sometimes park themselves in front of full-spectrum light boxes. I prefer just getting out and walking.
Brisk walking has a second benefit, that of cardiovascular exercise. Research has indicated that 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise several times a week is more effective at lifting depression than all of the front-line anti-depressant pills–and exercise costs you nothing and has no nasty side effects. Moderate cardiovascular exercise can boost your immune response too, making you less vulnerable to the viruses that can bring you down in the winter. Taking your cardiovascular exercise as walking or jogging outside can also give you glimpses of green, another mood lifter.
Much more recent research has found that 71% of people with depression were less depressed after spending time in green space. I’m surprised how much green our landscape has even in winter. While it’s not spring green, it’s still green. If you live in a big city, consider seeking an indoor garden, such as St. Louis’s Climatron (Missouri) or Madison’s Olbrich Conservatory (Wisconsin). To find an indoor garden near you, try googling “conservatory” and “garden.” Chances are you may find an indoor oasis of green in the midst of snow. I also find great joy in starting my summer garden seeds indoors at this time of year. (For more on seed starting, see here.) Even that little bit of new green life perks me up.
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with a full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.