Seasonal Affective Disorder during winter's short daylight hours in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The short daylight hours of winter present a challenge for many people. The abundant energy and unbridled positive enthusiasm of predominantly bright and long daylight days of summer declines predictably in October. Personal energy is reduced throughout the winter months but the days become sufficiently longer by April to provide hope that another emotional and physical recovery might be possible.
The frustrating and discouraging annual winter affliction was getting progressively worse each year. Research on the issue discovered thousands of people have the same problem with some experiencing milder symptoms and others becoming virtually crippled. On best advice, a white light designed to provide relief with daily exposure was purchased and regular exposure seemed to help a bit but scheduling and time of use made it an awkward process at best.
A book entitled 'Winter Blues' by Norman E. Rosenthal MD is thorough and insightful. Chapters 7 and 8 are particularly helpful. In additional research a suite of suggestions are assembled from a wide variety of sources that might be worthwhile to adopt within an active lifestyle. The results have been measurably positive and the time to begin the annual ritual can be 'felt'. Perhaps it is like the bear's need to hibernate.
The following steps are taken each year beginning in the fall.
All the incandescent light bulbs in my apartment have been replaced with 100 watt LED bulbs, (at less operating cost than incandescents). There are three ceiling fixtures, each with three bulbs. That is 300 watts of power per fixture including several lamps which are each equipped with a 100 watt white fluorescent bulb.
The internal biological clock makes me an early riser. On rising, every light in the apartment is turned on and will stay on until departure. The apartment is very bright but the exposure to bright light seems to help.
Throughout short days the humidifiers run 24/7 for the six or seven winter months, keeping apartment humidity constantly near 50%.
Winter daily vitamin supplements are:
- Timed release B100 Complex
- 333 mg Calcium with 167 mg Magnesium + 200 IU Vitamin D3
- 1000 mg Omega-3 and,
- 500 mg timed release Vitamin C
- in addition to an annual daily Multivitamin.
During late fall, winter and early spring as much active time as possible is spent outdoors. A day snowshoeing in bright sunlight, with serious eye protection, can be worth up to a week of positive relief.
This overall annual regime has provided substantial relief every short daylight season for several years. Winter has substantially and consistently been more comfortable.
The best component of the self-imposed therapy seems to hiking or snowshoeing on a sunny winter day in the fresh air of the mountains. The mood enhancement is palpable and can last for several days. The intensity of the light reflected from snow demands skin and eye protection.
An excellent article on Seasonal Affective Disorder can be found on the Canadian Mental Health Association website.
Living in the southern hemisphere for six months of the year, or at least closer to the equator, is likely a better approach if the opportunity is feasible and possible.