S. A. D.? COME SEE THE LIGHT

Did you ever notice how little winter weather affects people during the holiday season? Cloudy days? Snow? Great! Bring it on-- just like a Currier and Ives poster. Cold, wet, white-washed weather at this time is received enthusiastically. Its a perfect backdrop for the colorful lights, crowds of smiling people frantically scurrying about in search of places to spend money while humming cheerful tunes.
Yet, each year a curious phenomenon occurs almost as soon as the holiday music stops. Winter weather seems to have an adverse effect (except if you are a skier). Pierced by the icy chill of winter, the tempo of life slows down to a screeching halt. A somber mood covers the world as a blanket of snow for many people. They feel trapped at home, irritable and depressed. In fact, many individuals experience an emotional lull at this time, often referred to as "cabin fever." The next three months frequently become planned boredom; a drudgery; an endless wait for change, like driving through the Queens Midtown Tunnel about 5 p.m.
In recent years, a mutant form of cabin fever has emerged and come to be known as, "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (S.A.D.). Like cabin fever, sufferers report intense boredom, lethargy, depression, irritability and restricted activities. Furthermore, loss of concentration, sleep, and over-eating are frequently cited symptoms. However, unlike traditional cabin fever, S.A.D. is believed to occur as a function of a specific entity: The absence (or reduction) of light. It is not surprising that a predominantly large number of cases are reported in major cities, such as New York, due not only to poor weather but tall buildings which block access to that already scarce entity. S.A.D. is portable-- you can take your misery with you--on the job, in public places, or at home. After all, winter, with its attendant darkness seems to be the culprit.
It is noteworthy that people who suffer with these symptoms do so year after year at approximately the same time; knowing such time is drawing near seems to have little to no mitigating effect. Surprised? You shouldn't be. The mere anticipation of the "mean season" can trigger these symptoms. S.A.D. can be anchored as skillfully as any other state of consciousness! So what can be done to counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder? It stands to reason that if this state of conscious- ness is triggered by a prolonged absence of light, providing such light should improve matters. It is in this spirit that research has been conducted at Columbia University.
"Light therapy" was spawned with two types of lighting fixtures: A large, table light that resembles a small monolith, and a light 'ionization' device, which, through a transfer of particles, simulates sunlight. Although they are available to the public, their cost (several hundred dollars) makes them useful to only the most financially comfortable sufferers of S.A.D. But what are the rest of you to do? Is grey, winter weather keeping you in the dark? Don't wilt just yet. You need to re-anchor this season; to find your way in the dark in order to see the light. And, of course, there is more than one way to accomplish this.

  1. Get more of WATTS good . Replace your lamp bulbs with high-powered 150-250 watt bulbs. When you feel yourself turn off; turn them on.
  2. Tune into a brighter outlook. Light is not the only anchor in the sea of emotions. Sound can be a trigger, too. Select CD's, tapes or albums (remember those?) containing music that is associated with pleasurable events. Play them throughout the day while the lights shine brightly.
  3. Take yourself on a pleasure trip...at home. In your well-lit environment, filled with enjoyable sounds, relax in a comfortable chair, breathe deeply a few times, inhaling from your diaphragm-- not your upper chest--and then slowly exhaling. Create a pleasure trip of your choice. Be sure can see, hear and feel in this fantasy. And step into it, so you no longer see yourself, but rather, "are there."

Mobilize . Make a list of tasks and activities that you wish to accomplish this winter. Perhaps you considered painting one or more rooms? Redecorating? Enrolling in a specialty course? Visiting friends and relatives? Then work through your list...until you see daylight."