…well, unless you want to be that is; but make that a choice. I add this proviso because it seems to me, as with every ‘challenge’ that ever presents itself in life, that this choicepoint amounts to one very huge opportunity to delve deeply into how you create your own experiences. If you are a ‘sufferer’ from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) this is your invitation – delivered loud and clear – to examine what it is that brings you down at certain times of year and then to consider ways that you are able to make your experience very different indeed; consciously, through choice.
That’s not to negate the very real, biological impact a shortfall of daylight might be having on your wellbeing – and I know all about this as it affects my health, my energy-levels and my mood extremely profoundly – but what this is also inviting you to do is to examine and appreciate all those things that make the difference and then the significant amount of control that you have over them.
What feels like a very necessary ‘first-step’ is to admit how much you loath those dreary grey days with all the colour and consistency of a soggy old dishcloth, a grey rag seemingly thrown over your world – and a long run of days where daylight hardly seems to happen will give you all the impetus you need. That admission might be that you, at some level, relish the excuse to surrender into a melancholy that allows you to stop everything and, in effect, hibernate for a few months and if that is the case, admit it and allow it; there’s nothing wrong with that either but you can’t even begin to adapt your life and your work around such a seasonal preference until you allow that this is how you prefer to be. Maybe its a time of year that you generate new ideas and plant them like seeds without actively growing them out of the dark soil and have nothing much to show for that above ground. If this is you then why not stop making yourself wrong but, rather, work to that rather than ram-raiding yourself against a brick wall for a third of a year. Factoring your own natural rhythms into your work-schedule can be transformative to your wellbeing and if this alters the career you pursue or the priorities you give to certain times of year, so be it and the recognition of this can be transformative. It might even be that you get something out of delving into darker corners, exploring the mysterious or the not so obviously apparent undercurrents of experience; it might bring out the poet or the writer in you – but own this and celebrate it (rather than fighting it) if any part of it is true. Honesty is power; it releases all those deeply-surpressed frustrations that work with your sense of helplessness so, once let out of the bag, allowing that rant of frustration can be all the turbo-charge you need to get yourself going again; in ways that most suit you.
So here’s my rant: when days are dark and gloomy, ideas swirl around in a rich peaty soup yet my active creativity heads east (probably in search of the sun that never showed up) and I gnash and bash against a degree of unproductively that sends my hyperactive mind in loops of frustration…and yet, as wired and unfilled as I am, I am also utterly exhausted without cause and, in my head, feel like I am just lying in a vegetative state, flaying my arms around like a blind man in search of something terribly important (what?) that I feel like I once had but have let slip through my fingers. When days lack quality daylight, there’s always that sense of being behind with something, of not giving things my full attention, of undone things creeping up on me ready to explode in my face. Days feel so uneventfully long that I can hardly wait for bedtime and yet the nights are restless and even more insidious for the lack of breaking light and birdsong to ease the sleepless hours.
But then there’s nothing like the absence of golden, powerful, room-flooding sunlight to make you really fully appreciate it when it is there. Those sudden mid-afternoon bursts of it, when it comes into your room at the acute winter-angle that creates hard-edged shadows and dancing dust motes, that sends rainbows bouncing off the edge of mirrors and creates crystal balls out of rain-droplets attached to winter’s smeared window panes, can surprise you like a holy experience between days of insidious gloom.
Once that ‘missing thing’ is appreciated in these moments of extreme radiance that – you can’t help noticing – make you feel like an entirely different person, you find yourself able to recognise what it is that you (feel) you lack and to discover ways to demonstrate that you lack nothing when you become acutely aware of that thing and what it feels like. Use this awareness to question “how do I get more of this feeling into my experience?” and you will start to recognise so many ways that you are capable of creating your own exquisite experience – not just in these seemingly trivial ways but in the whole of life in general.
The obvious things – when it comes to mimicking the brighter seasons – are, of course, to get outside more, move your chair closer to the window and re-examine your working practices and where you set up your workstation or how often you get up and do something different. Go out for that all-important daily walk nearer to midday for maximum light strength or – equally effective – go grab yourself a sunrise or sunset (there’s no better season for it) and allow yourself to gaze into it just a little. If you don’t have a dog to walk, go out anyway – even if its just a stroll around the (outside of) shops. Open that roof slider in the car. Book yourself an off-season trip, even if its just for a day and put the kind of dates in your diary – one a week, if possible – that shine out like beacon. Follow the daylight around your house. If one room – even a broom cupboard – gets a sudden blast of light at a particular time of the afternoon as it squeezes between the two houses opposite, make an appointment to sip a cup of tea in there at that exact time. Make a ceremony of it, turn it into treasured moment of meditation, of emptying the mind and just breathing the light in. And there’s nothing that says you can’t wrap up warm and sit in a deckchair for a while when the sun comes out instead of acting as though the garden is completely off-bounds for all those cold, damp months; there’s a whole other feel to a garden that is so easily missed when we shut ourselves away and those hungry birds will be so glad you noticed their feeder was empty.
Here’s a biggie – get yourself a SAD lamp (I swear by mine) but also replace all of your household lightbulbs with good quality, full-spectrum alternatives. I did this last year and don’t know what took me so long, its utterly transformed my inner environment (yes, my house and my mood) and those very few corners of the house where ‘old’ yellow-toned bulbs still lurk – my cosy dining room, for instance – look like an abyss of gloominess now; it honestly makes me feel like I’m stepping back into an old sepia photograph when I walk into those spaces now compared to the clean, clear, penetrating light of full-spectrum where everything can be seen just as it looks on a bright sunny day. When I walk past the windows of other people’s houses on those dreary autumn afternoons and see their amber lights shining out, I find myself wondering what the appeal of those ever was but then, I suppose, we equate those yellow-hues with candle and fire-light so it has a lot to do with the deeply embedded nostalgia for our childhoods and days gone by; but then I seem to be done with nostalgia, in general, lately. These days, I’m all for seeing ‘the now’ in all its optimum clarity and daylight bulbs make living and working and feeling most energised entirely possible whatever the weather. An important key-note of this is that it puts me back in control of my experience; no longer subjected to random ‘outside’ circumstance or memories of yesteryear, I am the driver of my own life-conditions in a way that has upped my productivity and mood beyond measure and the morale boost of this is tremendous. I also find my working patterns are changing as I am able to extend my day beyond the ‘natural’ cutoff point of sunset, choosing when I want to pick up or put down what I am doing, regardless of the circadian rhythms, following my own inspiration and my own driving impulse, and this feels tremendously significant and empowering.
Other things to examine are, in what other ways do favourite seasons signal to you that they are ‘happening’ and then integrate some of those things; whether that’s the kind of food you eat or the music you listen to. I even find listening to a blast of birdsong on Spotify highly effective first thing in the morning as this is one of my ‘happy’ cues during the lighter months. If mind-tricks, as such, are what it takes then why not indulge yourself – its not deception, its making a choice as to what you want to experience, so taking steps in this direction is a hugely positive affirmation to yourself that you are loved, that you are listening attentively to yourself and that you care enough about your own wellbeing – as a priority – to take conscious steps towards realising more joy in matters both pressing or even, apparently, trivial. Its interesting how attending to these ‘trivial’ matters has a snowball effect on wellbeing as a whole – just a few tweaks to your day and how you experience it show you care very deeply about yourself and can have an immense knock-on effect upon your overall health. This effect accumulates over time, until you eventually reach a point when your body feels so relaxed and trusting in your own hands that it releases all that old emotional debris that used to keep you locked up in seasonally determined misery. Suddenly, a seemingly endless procession of gloomy days doesn’t seem all that gloomy anymore but, rather, has become the very playground of creating your own best experience.