Is there anyone other than a vampire or a burglar who see the shortened days of winter as a good thing? Anyone find anything positive in our annual adventure in altered time keeping? Anyone who doesn’t find the whole concept of “falling back” a bit cringe worthy? As I trudge through long, dark January, halfway through Daylight Saving Time…where there’s no saving anything…just rearranging… and the shortest day is still 24 hours, just an hour darker…there’s comfort in knowing there are probably half a million people feeling as depressed, irritable and tired as I am.
My winter blues are assuaged by pulling on sweat pants at 4:00. With the fun part of my day cancelled by the dark, the hours till sleep are spent craving sugar and starch and drinking wine. Broadway shows that start at 7:00, fine… same with dinner plans. The get up and go that propels me to evening book clubs and lectures and midweek meet ups with friends in the spring and summer is in hibernation the first few months of the year.
I understand the days are getting longer now… thirty seconds longer every day to be exact… but doesn’t it seem they get longer a lot slower than they get shorter? Nearly half of the 10 to 11 hours of our awake time after midday are spent without sunlight. Days are over five hours shorter this month than they are in June…hours that would be spent active and social, without benefit of TV bingeing and a tray of brownies.
I did some research about SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, the most unsubtle acronym on the planet. SAD is scientific validation that reduced exposure to sunlight causes a lowering of mood in many people, 60-90 percent of whom are women. Is it that we’re more sensitive, more aware of our surroundings than men are? Is it because many of us work as free lancers and/or work at home and look out the window mid afternoon? For sure it’s not that we’re lazy petite flowers.
The list of “fixes” is predictable. Nutritionists swear by Vitamin D, pumpkin seeds, squash, cinnamon and Omega-3 fats. Mental health professionals tout anti depressants. And then there’s a slew of artificial lighting devices from visors to boxes dedicated to replacing the absent sun, the cause for all the bloopiness in the first place.
The Times did a story this week about hygge, the Danish word for comfort and apparently a new buzzword for 2017. Reading about how Denmark, the happiest country in the world, attains this state, I realized that the coziness and candles and cuddles…the fireplaces and soups and shearling slippers…all of it is geared for finding peace and calm on cold winter nights. They took the darkness and made it a necessary ingredient in nestling into the soft, intimate snugness of home. And if a storm rages, all the better. This is not the time where becoming a better person is front and center…instead it’s the time for heartening, soul-enhancing snuggling under the blankets.
So I’m going to put on my ratty 25- year-old sweatshirt that reads Attitude Is It and flip the SADness of it all. If I lived in the centuries before Gortex jackets and Polar fleece gloves, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with keeping warm and conserving energy…eating more food to add fat to my body, remaining in bed longer and participating in as little physical exertion as possible. That knowledge, along with anticipating the lovely longer days ahead… should hygge the hell out of the winter blues.
By the way all BA50s need to know what Hygge means so watch and learn: