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S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

 
Posts: 211
Location: Missoula Montana
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I am sure we have all heard of this, but in case you haven't, here's the scoop.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is from lack of sunlight and shorter days.  People become depressed from lack of light, mainly sunlight.  With the inversion over the Missoula area, I am wondering if people are affected by this?  As the days get shorter, nights longer, and less and less sunlight, what are some things we can do to help boost our energy and moods without sunlight? 

10 years ago and living in Miles City, I thought using a tanning booth was the answer.  Now I think that's a bad idea.  Not sure that it really helped back then anyway, just damaged my skin.

The last two places I lived were in Clearwater, FL and Salida, CO, both of which had ALOT of sunlight and much longer winter days. 
 
steward
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I used to get really glum and depressed in the winter. When I found out about Seasonal Affective Disorder, I adopted a strategy to deal with it.

I adopted the philosophy that during the winter the most important activity in my life is to get sufficient sunlight. Therefore, every day that there is sunshine at about noon, I strip off as much clothing as is legally possible, and I lay out in the sun for at least 20 minutes. Whatever else is happening gets put on hold if mid-day sunlight is available.

It helps if I lay on the south side of a building, then I get the heat from direct exposure to the sun, and I get the heat reflected from the building. There is a nook where I most like to sun that helps to minimize the wind. It can be cold outside in the winter. Whenever possible, I sun directly, and try to avoid getting sun through a window, cause no telling how the window messes with the sunlight. But if it's really really too cold to be outside I'll take sunlight through a window.

They say that sunning increases vitamin D content in the body which is very helpful for fighting viruses. This summer, it seemed super-important to me to have a high vitamin D content in my body, so I sunned all summer long. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so I'm going into winter with an ample supply. I expect that I will increase my sunning time this winter.

It seems to me that there may be many other types of other chemical reactions that happen in the body when it is exposed to sunlight. We might as well take advantage of the free energy that is waiting to be used.

The other thing that really lifts my mood is running. For me, the endorphins kick in with a run as short as 600 feet. So if I'm feeling blah, and there's an ice-free area, I'll go for a run.

Anyone else have experience with seasonal affective disorder? How do you deal with it?
sunning-winter.jpg
sunning in the winter for optimal happiness
sunning in the winter for optimal happiness
 
pollinator
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When I lived in Fairbanks I used to know an old timer that would sun himself for 15 minutes a day any time the sun was out in the winter. For a month or so the sun is just too low on the horizon to get any rays at all but other than that, -20 degrees? Didn't matter to him. Probably helped that he had lived there since the 70s and knew enough about the trade offs...

Also one year my boss bought us all sad-lights which are supposed to emulate sunshine while you work at your bench. They sucked.
 
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having been in Florida most my life I took for granted lots of sunshine, my first job out of college took me just west of the Mississippi and six weeks during the winter with not one day of sunshine I was in deep depression, I only lasted there 14 months 10 days and 2 hours and back to Florida till just a few years ago. for some reason maybe its climate change I have not had extended periods of time here  with no sunshine at the western edge of the smokies but make it a point to get out in the sun when it shines during winter.
I think that maybe herbs like ginseng have been a help. but having been through past experiences I'm aware that there is such a thing as seasonal affective disorder and for me it sure was a very real thing.
 
pollinator
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I definitely have problem with sunshine withdraw. It's not the shorter days that get to me so much as our extended periods of gray. Days, weeks at a time it seems like when "the sky won't snow and the sun won't shine". Bright artificial light helps a little bit but has absolutely no lasting effect. Nothing can be done about it except run outside during the intermittent bright periods. My house is secluded enough and my tolerance for cold strong enough there are no restrictions on exposure. I love the feel of warm sunshine simultaneous with cold air.

It might be climate change related to some degree as I remember we used to have winter days of sun on snow, that's very rare now days and I miss it. We generally have plenty of sun in the summer, enough that I hide from it the afternoon but I am the proverbial morning person anyway.
 
pollinator
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I had it bad growing up.  I have a learned a few tricks, besides moving south.  First, get outside as close to sunrise as possible.  Ten minutes of early morning light with no glasses, looking as close to the sun as comfortable will reset your internal clock.  Cut the carbs, the blood sugar roller coaster greatly increases risk of depression in general.

The sad lights were SAD.  Light technology has really improved, but we are still more worried about the cost than the health impact.  I find a small halogen bulb in a desk lamp does as much as some expensive fancy LED.
 
pollinator
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I had a bad period of depression when I was a student. SAD was a contributing factor, and I have been aware since then of low mood in winter.

Getting sunlight is important, but so is simply being aware of your mood and recognising when you are getting low. Exercise, fresh air and sunlight do help.

This year I have switched my daily commute to an ebike. It’s far enough that I wouldn’t routinely ride there and back with a normal bike. With the ebike it is a positive joy. And more exercise than sitting in a car would be.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I am sunning for an hour a day, whenever sunlight is available about noon. It's getting quite chilly, but the sun really warms my skin so I usually don't notice the cold. On warmer days, without a breeze, I go to the lake. On colder or breezy days, I sun at home in a little alcove protected from the wind, where the sun  can bounce off two walls, and warm me further.
winter-sunning.jpg
Sunning by the lake
Sunning by the lake
 
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I remember as a kid seeing old Soviet newsreels about exposing children in school to U.V. to combat the lack of sunshine in Siberia.
There are several flavors of U.V. and some of them contribute to cancer so they may have discontinued the practice.
But I would think full spectrum lighting would go a long way towards creating "normal" conditions!

https://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/
 
master steward
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so like joseph, i am also trying to get a much sun as i can, whenever the sun is out. It usually involves climbing up a bluff to get to where the sun is shining. I have a nice bench up there to sit on.

Today me and my partner went kayaking out to the Finnerty islands.

I got to spend about 30 minutes sun bathing!

 
gardener
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I agree with most of the strategies you are using.  I live in a place that is gray and drizzly for months in a row.  People who move here get depressed this time of year.  

I think it's important to have things you look forward to during this time of year.  Covid makes it harder.  Some people cook more, bake more, take dance classes, etc.  I read more, I unicycle almost exclusively during this part of the year, I whitewater kayak, cross-country ski, gather root vegetables like sunchokes and skirret, gather scions, move plants, gather leaves, go on walks and ride bikes, play lots of music, attend church more frequently, take cuttings and organize my house more.  I think one of the keys is to have something that you look forward to doing during this time of year.

John S
PDX OR
 
gardener
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My family has a small house at the coast, one old lady used to live there during the winter and every day she would take her skinny body to the beach and swim in the sea. She always looked very brown skinned although she was a white lady, she sunbathed a lot. She had a glassed terras without a roof on the southside. Whenever there was sun she was outside reading in the sun. I guess embracing the cold moving sea water every day made her a bit immune to the cold. She got very old like that.
Quitting drinking alcohol has helped my winterblues a lot, i am outside a lot, plan my days around the sun being out and drinking StJohn's Worth tea whenever i feel it creeping up has helped loads. Luckily it grows wild and i get it before the community services mow it down.

 
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For me getting outside every day is a help, but it only stabilises how I am, rather than improving it.  And SAD lights actually make me grumpy. The thing that improves my mood is gardening. I've gone out of my way to include winter flowering plants in my garden so there's something to tempt me outside (ooh, the first white crocus, the iris siberica!!). Having events or a project to focus on also helps distract me through to March.
 
master gardener
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Having critters has been a great help, to me. I find that I lose my motivation, and just want to stay in bed, or at the very least, indoors. Having puppies to walk, and goats, chickens, and ducks to tend on a daily or at least mostly daily basis provides that motivation. I might grumble about it, while I'm bundling up (my other issues make me overly sensitive to the cold), but once I get out there, the fresh air really helps, even on cloudy, or overcast days.
 
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I might be biased, seeing as I teach it, but skiing and other winter sports has always been my favourite pick me up, you do need snow or ice around, so it doesnt apply to everybody. Although I've heard of people trying it on grass or pebbles, I'm not sure I'd recommend it !
 
pollinator
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Winter sunlight here does nothing vitD wise it's simply not strong enough, for me summer sun doesn't do much either and I have to take a supplement so do not trust that just getting out in sunlight will be doing anything vitamin wise, if you suspect a deficiency then get tested and supplement if needed. Walking on the beach is pretty nice but very cold exercise of any type seems to help, though trying to work up the determination and courage to go out in the perma rain and slog through mud and damp to get any is another matter.

All this talk of going out in the sun, BRR there's no noticeable apricity here at 57N I would freeze, of course for that even to be checkable it would require some sun. here's the next10 day forcast, pretty standard for this time of year, a bit dryer and not as windy as average perhaps.
grey.png
[Thumbnail for grey.png]
 
pollinator
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In the spirit of posting one's approaching forecast, the outlook below is quite unusual for the Fargo, North Dakota (USA) area. (Temperatures in Fahrenheit.)  Fortunately, a somewhat flexible job has always allowed for maximizing daytime exposure in winter, such as the light may be, and this year has been exceptional for exercising that option.  But no way around the long nights and deep cold of normal winters here...we remind ourselves of those to the north of us in Canada and then stop our whining! :-)
ComingWeek.JPG
[Thumbnail for ComingWeek.JPG]
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
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They posted an article on the national news site about this today, in the last 19 days we have had 5.4 hours of sun so people are worried about Vit D. However the article points out that from October to March at our latitude (54N) you get no appreciable vit D from the sun even if you try to fry yourself.

Solen står nemlig alligevel så lavt på himlen fra oktober til marts, at man stort set ikke får nogen D-vitamin den vej igennem, forklarer Susanne Gjedsted Bügel, der er professor i klinisk og forebyggende ernæring ved Københavns Universitet.



(The sun is so low in the sky from October to March, that one gets nearly no D-vitamin from it. Explains Susanne Giedsted Bugel, who is a professor in clinical and preventive nutrition at Copenhagen University)
 
John Suavecito
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I just saw an article the other day that made a lot of sense to me.  It said that people who don't get depressed in the winter or S. A. D. do something different than people who do get it.  They plan for it!

Sounds like what all the people on this thread are talking about, but intentionally, rather than haphazardly. Not forcefully, but just like, "Wow, it's already December and I haven't done any _________________________ yet. Let's get going."

John S
PDX OR
 
pollinator
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I'm outside for a good portion of every day year-round. I have found that not wearing sunglasses from about mid October through February really helps me to avoid the winter time blues. Only rarely if there is snow and bright sun will I put them on for a while.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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"Nearly No Vitamin D" is not the same as zero. The people that measure such things report that in my city today, even with completely overcast conditions, that ultraviolet radiation is about 10% of what is available on a clear day in mid summer, tomorrow is expected to be closer to 20%. Still, supplements are easy. This time of year, my local pharmacy is typically out of stock on Vitamin D tablets.

I suspect there are also other beneficial biological processes that are enhanced by being outside in fresh air, and natural lighting, regardless of diminished UV rays.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:"Nearly No Vitamin D" is not the same as zero. The people that measure such things report that in my city today, even with completely overcast conditions, that ultraviolet radiation is about 10% of what is available on a clear day in mid summer, tomorrow is expected to be closer to 20%. Still, supplements are easy. This time of year, my local pharmacy is typically out of stock on Vitamin D tablets.

I suspect there are also other beneficial biological processes that are enhanced by being outside in fresh air, and natural lighting, regardless of diminished UV rays.



A more exact translation is "in general no vitamin D" you are 1300 ish miles south of us there, The UV index here for today at midday was 0.3 (we max out at 7 in high summer) I see that near you at the moment it is about 2.2 and cloudy (in the area I looked at, you may of course be in sun but then the UV index would also be higher) or 7x as much. I do not disagree that standing outside  is nice, but it isn't going to do anything for Vitamin D uptake.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I took full advantage of that little blip up to 2.2 while the sun temporarily was not hidden by clouds. All of about 15 minutes. I take what I can get whenever it's available.

 
John Weiland
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I found this article on vitamin D intertwined with light and diet illuminating:  https://vitamindwiki.com/Eskimos+evolved+to+get+and+limit+Vitamin+D+from+food

Largely affected by age as I approach 60, I find midwinter to be sprinkled with many naps.  So along with getting outside during the light hours, there is the counter-pull towards hibernation.  It results in rather irregular night sleep patterns, but overall seems to even out the mood within the dark doldrums of the season.  For sure it's worse this year.  At least in years past some of these doldrums were broken up with more evening socializing that is on hold for the present, but all in all a tolerable time of the year.
 
Mark Reed
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I suspect there are also other beneficial biological processes that are enhanced by being outside in fresh air, and natural lighting, regardless of diminished UV rays.


Absolutely, although I can't really define, describe or quantify them.  I certainly miss the sun during long periods of overcast skies, no doubt about that but my energies for lack of a better word are recharged by many other aspects of the outdoors and especially of weather. Snow fall so thick you cant' see through it. Wind driven sleet bouncing off my face, the sound of pounding rain in the woods. The crystalline nature of the world under sub-zero moonlight and the absolute quite that accompanies it. The crunch of my foot on ice crusted snow. A flash flood flushing limestone slabs down the creek and the flashes of lightening that goes with that. It's all good in it's own way, at least for me anyway.
 
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I read a lot, always have. What helped me the most was replacing the bulb on my bed reading light with a full spectrum/daylight bulb. Works for me!
 
pioneer
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I've experienced this as well, for probably the past 10 years from September to February.

But for me, I've become very introspective with this state, and I think that has made a huge difference. It's interesting to me that I, a dumb kid from a one road town, and one person of over 100 billion that has ever roamed the Earth, can have an experience as profound as this. Sometimes, when I'm home alone, I just sit and "observe" it or feel it, be with it as they say. One day when I had the house to myself and was feeling especially gloomy, my eyes would water for no reason as I walked around the house. So the thought entered my mind "Ok, let's do this then". I opened youtube and watched some of the sappiest videos I could find, some were incredibly sad while others were incredibly heart-warming.  Maybe you could say I went into the heart of the beast.

Another aspect of this I find interesting is that we think of bad feelings as bad. What proof do we have of this, simply the way it makes us feel? Well, who are we anyway?

In fact, one year I thought it might pass me over, and I was actually slightly disappointed.

I don't know what I'm saying here, but that's been my experience with this.

Good luck.
 
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It's a big issue for me, I hit rock bottom health/depression wise each year around middle of the winter.
The D vitamin supplements help a bit, but there is simply not enough sun at my latitude.
It's somehow better in proper winter with snow and cold, but this dreadful grey landscape/constant rain for 6 months of the year we are having due to climate change most years is just too much.

I wonder if those British retirees are up to something with their 'winter apartments' in Spain
 
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Greetings,

to add to this great conversation, here is link to recent thread "Kinda SAD ... alarm sun light recommendation?" where there are some other lighting resources for anyone interested. these resources so far are individual bulbs, rather than the actual alarm sunlight thingy's:

https://permies.com/t/167028/Kinda-SAD-alarm-sun-light

also to bump up this great thread on folks dealing with their SAD.

 
pollinator
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Hugo Morvan wrote:My family has a small house at the coast, one old lady used to live there during the winter and every day she would take her skinny body to the beach and swim in the sea. She always looked very brown skinned although she was a white lady, she sunbathed a lot. She had a glassed terras without a roof on the southside. Whenever there was sun she was outside reading in the sun. I guess embracing the cold moving sea water every day made her a bit immune to the cold. She got very old like that.
Quitting drinking alcohol has helped my winterblues a lot, i am outside a lot, plan my days around the sun being out and drinking StJohn's Worth tea whenever i feel it creeping up has helped loads. Luckily it grows wild and i get it before the community services mow it down.



I love to swim and be outdoors!  I swim outside in the rivers for as long as possible before it freezes over. I feel very cold before I go in.  The outdoor temperature might be 7-10C actually I don’t know what the water temperature is but it’s cold. Usually the last thing to go under water is my hands. They seem to suffer the most. Once I get going though the water feels heavenly and I wonder why it takes me so long to get in. When I come out of the water I feel the cold air and hop back in a few times.  When I get out i’m Vigorously rubbing my body dry!  The energy I get from swimming in the cold water is incredible. I’ve been able to keep this up almost to the end of October. It lifts my mood like nothing else!  
The snow should be coming soon, but i’m outside doing my animal chores and taking advantage of the fresh air as much as possible. Even in a snowstorm i’ll Go for a walk in the woods with the dog.  The hardest month I find is usually dark December. I still have to go out and do my chores, so I might as well get a walk in there.
January and February the light is getting longer and some of my best snowshoeing is then!  Unfortunately it’s also the coldest -20 to -30.  Dressing for the occasion is key!  The reflection of the sun on the snow is magical and people always ask if if i’ve Been on holidays. Yup in my own backyard!  
 
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I'm sitting in frontt of my SADD light now.  It must be full spectrum and 10,000 lumens within 30 inches of your face for 30 min every day as early in the day as possible.  This is what the studies on treating SADD and depression say.  It's not the vit D that helps the depression.  By doing it early in the day it fools your body into thinking it lives closer to the equator where we humans evolved.  
I also exercise and get outside when I can.  It's one reason I started making maple syrup, it gets me outside in Feb.  Then pruning fruit trees in Mar. Then it's gardening time outdoors yeah!  The toughest months are Nov thru Feb.  But, everyone is different and I bet there are even some people who don't ever experience it.  Are you out there?
 
pollinator
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I loooove sun and heat, summertime is totally my jam. So wintertime for me is depressing even without vitamin deficiencies; but I have found a few things that help keep my spirits up...
--go barefoot outside as often as possible. There is something exhilirating about walking around in cold wet grass until your feet are numb. This seems to get my blood flowing and balance my mood.
--keep outside projects going during the winter months; even if it is just feeding the ducks or checking up on my winter potato crop, those things seem to also give me a reason to live so to speak, and keep me moving forward and getting out when otherwise I wouldn't want to.
--we store firewood away from the house, not only because it seems to prevent spider and rat overpopulation on the porches, but it also forces you to get out there, move around, look at everything, breathe some fresh air and get a bit of exercise bringing in a load of wood.
--eat a full balanced diet with lots of colorful veggies and seafood, maybe even some liver or other organs of your choice thrown in there. If you can keep one or two of your milkers going up until at least midwinter, this is a great nutritious food as well (and helps to stagger kidding/calving into later springtime). All of these nutritious foods contain so much more than "just" vitamin D, and winter is traditionally a time when humans look to fatten up a bit and enjoy good food. Vitamin D is stored in fat, so maybe there is a reason behind this instinctual behavior.
--as others have said, if there is sun, drop everything and get out in it! Even if you aren't getting thaat much vitamin D out of it technically speaking, you are gaining or at least breaking even instead of flat-out losing like you would be by staying indoors. Also, I suspect that vitamin D is a vast oversimplification of all of the benefits that you receive from the sun and the outdoors in general. There is something ineffable about looking up at the sun and the way it lights the landscape around you, feeling the earth beneath your feet, the touch of the wind on your skin, even that feeling of being alive when the cold cuts through your body. You can't feel worse from that.
 
pollinator
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I LOVE the sun. I always have. I've always gotten up with the sun and often I've gotten up even earlier just to watch the sun rise. Bright, beautiful sunlight just makes me so happy. Artificial light just doesn't compare.  My bedroom is on the 2nd floor and I don't even have curtains in my windows. Not because I'm trying to turn on the old dude that lives next door.... or even to give him a chuckle, but because it gives me so much energy and life! And I think sunlight affects us old people more prominently. That's probably why you see so many old people eating dinner at Denny's at 5 p.m. Because they go to bed soon after the sun goes down! It's dark out! Sure, I can sit outside and look at the moon and the stars but they look exactly the same as they did 50 or 60 years ago! Darkness is so boring. I feel like time is being wasted in the darkness.

I do get really bummed out as the days get shorter. In December it feels dreary and gloomy and like spring will take forever to get here. Winter seems to last so long!

Since I retired I spend all day, most every day working in my garden. It's wonderful. Planting and growing and watering and harvesting and planting some more. And there aren't enough hours in the day to squash all the bugs and wave off all the birds and scare away the raccoons and about a hundred other things. I keep telling myself I'm retired! I should slow down, take it easy, relax, take some time off once in a while. I  keep running around like my hair is on fire. But I'm having so much fun!!

And I imagine all these new projects I want to do as I go but I just don't have the time for. Build a new path over here and put up a new trellis there. And if I cut down that big dead tree I can use the big straight limbs for the trellis posts. And I can make a neat bench out of the trunk. And this path doesn't need to be so wide; it is just sucking up more heat in the summer. I could move the gravel and all that rock and then I'd have more space  to put more flowers in. And if I move all that rock over there and use it to build a rock wall here it would divert some more water and give my asparagus more shade. So many of my projects always involve moving a ton or 2 of rock!

So, those are the projects I work on in the winter while I wait for the dreary days to end. I still grow vegies all winter long but it's a lot less labor intensive and I get my chores done quickly. If you want winter to go by quickly.... GET BUSY! It helps a lot. And by March I'm wondering...  is winter over already? Where the hell did all the time go?  I think the darkness sucked it up!
DSC04873.JPG
Another rock pile to get me throught the winter!
Another rock pile to get me throught the winter!
 
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Everybody is different. Something to understand. SAD goes both ways. I lived in the Sonoran Desert for 15 years. I asked a professional about what seemed like a sudden onset of depression for no reason...turns out SAD can happen with any "climate" that is oppressive to the organism.

Color therapy along with temp-adjusted lighting can be helpful, no matter which direction SAD affects you.

The trick is finding the seasonal range and variation that best fits "you uniquely".

In my case after years of living out in the desert 100 days with temps well over 100 degrees straight (no electric cooling). I fled to AK  for a while.

Lol SoCal is my nightmare...4 full seasons with an extra helping of winter is the best seasonal diet for my mental well-being.
All the best in finding the seasonal mix that allows you to thrive!
 
Marie Abell
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Andy John wrote:Everybody is different. Something to understand. SAD goes both ways. I lived in the Sonoran Desert for 15 years. I asked a professional about what seemed like a sudden onset of depression for no reason...turns out SAD can happen with any "climate" that is oppressive to the organism.

Color therapy along with temp-adjusted lighting can be helpful, no matter which direction SAD affects you.

The trick is finding the seasonal range and variation that best fits "you uniquely".



This is a great perspective. The main problem with modern medicine, imo, is failing to realize that each individual is unique--even if their unique traits or needs don't make sense to the rest of us. I am a sun-lover, for instance, but my kids who have been raised most or all of their lives here in southern Chile, sometimes tire of hotter weather and wish for rain and fog. I think that's weird, but hey, it's what they need. And an important part of being a healthy organism is recognizing your unique needs and working towards getting those things for yourself, not things that everybody else thinks you should want or need.
 
Thanks tiny ad, for helping me escape the terrible comfort of this chair.
HARDY FRUIT TREES FOR ORGANIC AND PERMACULTURE
https://permies.com/t/132540/HARDY-FRUIT-TREES-ORGANIC-PERMACULTURE
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