My friend and colleague, Jonathan Fox, scooped me last week by writing about his diagnosis of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and one of its treatment options, the Happy Lite. Having already touted …
My friend and colleague, Jonathan Fox, scooped me last week by writing about his diagnosis of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and one of its treatment options, the Happy Lite. Having already touted the benefits of the “Lite” several years ago in these pages, I was “happy” to see it being used successfully by him. But the subject of SAD is ripe for discourse at this time of year in these latitudes. If you don’t suffer its effects, we envy you.
From missed deadlines to messy houses, SAD wreaks havoc with its sufferers. It took me years to determine the source of my seasonal depression. As a city dweller most of my life, I think I was naturally less attuned to the effect of nature on my mood. After all, light was all around us, all the time. But it wasn’t sunlight, whose rays are so beneficial to life.
This winter is our first spent full-time in our Narrowsburg home and my SAD has noticeably lessened. I attribute this to the wall of windows welcoming natural light from sun-up to sundown. Also to the lightened stress of weekly car trips to and from the city and of managing two homes. My Happy Lite has been pilfered by one of our children. I haven’t missed it this winter, but sometimes I wonder if it would help with those deadlines.
As with Jonathan, SAD has been responsible for a real slump in my productivity in winter. When we lived in NYC full-time and had no upstate getaway, I would sometimes feel the need for an impromptu trip to the nearest seaside, even in February, for a dose of sunlight doubled by the effect of its reflection on sand and sea.
We never had the good fortune to have abundant natural light in our home in the city. But at about 2 p.m. each winter afternoon, sunlight would stream through our south-facing windows in Manhattan’s triangle below Canal Street and I would pause to breathe deeply. When we were selling our loft, I suggested showings be scheduled at 2 p.m. for the best effect. When we lived in Brooklyn, I had to travel outside for a glimpse of daylight. Not a good situation for a SADster.
My husband seems unaffected by seasonal change. He seeks warmth more than light. His office in our old loft was a windowless cavern crammed with books from floor to ceiling. In his new one, he keeps the shades drawn against the sylvan view. His mood is regulated more by the presence of dogs—and perhaps me—in his life. Where we are, he is happy.
For several recent years, we have managed to take a winter holiday in Costa Rica for a dose of sunlight and warmth and a retreat from daily routines. Usually, we leave the dogs with friends or family. This year, we will be taking them with us. I get anxious imagining us maneuvering two rambunctious Schnauzers through the maze of JFK at 6 a.m. There is paperwork involved, veterinary appointments, and more paperwork concerning the import of animals and their subsequent return to the U.S. Not meeting those deadlines is not an option, but their companionship is worth all the bureaucratic hurdles. Maybe I need to find my Happy Lite.