As my world has contracted through the loss of my job, I notice the little things that have changed. My senses have sharpened and seem more acute. In particular, I notice the change and importance of light.
In the old days, I would spend 8-10 hours in my office. It was an “inside” office meaning it had no external windows. I had fluorescent lights above and a table lamp behind me. Staring at the computer screen all day in this light was noticeably tough on my eyes. They watered and felt dry. My contacts itched. I would suddenly stop and observe my posture – hunched over, shoulders slumped, face muscles tight. The weather, changes in seasons and passage of light throughout the day were only visible when I stepped outside my four walls to glance out a window or walk down to the loading dock to visit nature up close. Today, I sit in my loft and watch the sun’s path across the sky all day. On good days, it streams in my south-facing windows and my soul feels light and free. On dull days, I hit the switch and illuminate my space from within.
As I mentioned in my earlier post “The Secret Life of Trees” I recently had track-lighting installed in my living room. I spent the extra to get energy efficient bulbs that produce white light instead of the usual yellow glow. Now, at around 4pm I crank up those lights and instantly feel more calm and energetic.
In a paper entitled, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: Lighting the Way“ by Carol Dyar she states:
Although the cause of this disorder is attributed to the lack of exposure to sunlight, it has not yet been determined whether a person’s susceptibility to it is genetic or stress-related or both. Dr. Rosenthal finds the causes of SAD to be “a combination of factors including shortened daylight, stress and genetic vulnerability.” By means of his research, he calculated that some kind of depression is experienced by at least 14 percent of the population due to the decrease of exposure to sunlight in the winter. Many scientists feel SAD is “a product of modern society that confines us indoors,” with stress levels easily increased by a work environment in which one hardly ever sees the sun.
So my answer to SAD is to get out and experience the light each day regardless of the sub-zero weather conditions. Yesterday I visited a neighbor who had asked me to photograph his horses in the snow. How can one be SAD in this environment?