[Written by Mary]
I hate writing depressing blog posts. But damn, it's dark out there. Dark as nothing and nowhere and hopelessness all put together. It makes me want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and curl up in a tight fetal position, hoping all the dark/dank/gloom stuff will pass by.
They've got a Name for this sort of thing. SAD, seasonal feelings of depression.
I always felt mildly depressed at this time of year even back in California, which in my neck of the state was about 38 degrees longitude. Up in Oregon, further North than the 45th parallel ("exactly halfway between the equator and the North pole," to quote the freeway sign as you pass Salem), it gets dark before 4:00 in the evening. To me, that's just fundamentally UnNatural. It's Wrong. It makes me want to Write In Capitals.
Seems like the natural urge at times like this is to do nothing. Curl up in a ball and hibernate until Mother Nature stops being such a mother. Maybe eat heaps of pasta or something else with lots of starchy calories.
But wait! It's okay to go starchy like a giant Marshmallow Mary. Or at least it's understandable. Studies suggest that that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects the brain chemical serotonin. Judith J. Wurtman, in an article SAD, Serotonin and Carbohydrates, points out that "This lack of serotonin explains the symptoms of winter depression, especially carbohydrate craving. Serotonin is made only when sweet and starchy carbohydrates (except fruit) are eaten. If protein is eaten along with the carbohydrates, no serotonin is made. So eating carbohydrates is therapeutic. The brain makes new serotonin, and the symptoms of SAD diminish."
So chowing down on pasta and potatoes and suchlike foodstuffs is a normal reaction, the body's attempt to right the hormonal balance. It's not a kind of giving in to the darkness, but an attempt to fight it.
Dr. Wurtman suggests eating protein for breakfast and lunch, and making dinner a more carbohydrate-exclusive meal. Might be worth a try. It makes sense that if your body needs carbohydrates, you could give in to the craving for one meal a day. That might help keep the cravings more reasonable and prevent the pigging-out-on-pasta syndrome.
I can recommend the use of light-therapy gadgets to increase the amount of natural-seeming light in a room. They can help. Even so (one last whine on this topic), the whole idea of the world getting so dark so early feels Wrong.
Do you go through these SAD feelings each winter? If so, how do you cope? (Or do you cope?) Any suggestions would be most welcome.