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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bring back the sun

Official start of winter
Winter solstice sunrise at Stonehenge 
By Will Collette

Today is the winter solstice, the day when the tilt of the earth puts the northern hemisphere the farthest distance from the sun. That marks the first official day of winter and it is also the day with the least amount of sunshine. 

From now on, the daylight hours will only get longer (hooray!) but for weeks, that change will be nearly imperceptible (boo!).

It’s hard for some people to endure. They suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. 

There are lots of symptoms of SAD, according to Wikipedia: difficulty waking up in the morning, morning sickness, tendency to oversleep and over eat, especially a craving for carbohydrates, which leads to weight gain. 

Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities and decreased sex drive. 

All of this leads to the depression, pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, and lack of pleasure which characterize a person suffering from this disorder.

SAD’s effects on people can range from mild to very dangerous, especially when combined with the holiday funk some people experience. Treatment options range from bright lights, to the use of melatonin to regulate sleep patterns to therapy.

Though I love New England winters, including the snow and the cold, I don’t like the short daylight hours, so I guess I have a touch of SAD. But for me, knowing that December 21 marks the turning point and that as long as the Earth circles the Sun, the light will return, works wonders.