The cold rain and long, dark evenings on the west coast of BC during the winter can seem endless. But for some people, it is more than weather and daylight they have to deal with.
Academic researchers began reporting on the links between less light and depression back in the 1980s. Soon it gained a name – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. In describing her winter struggles with depression, my neighbour Irene commented, “It felt like I was perpetually walking around with my own personal rain cloud.”
At this time of year, articles abound with helpful ideas to “beat the winter blues.” Tips range from getting out for daily exercise to joining various social clubs. But what if we also rethought how we are influenced by what we believe about the weather and the amount of sunlight?
Nature should not govern our lives, though it can teach us valuable lessons.
For example, though buried in the dark, the tulips we plant in the fall spend the winter resting. Then, in the springtime, they use that stored energy to quickly put down roots and grow, treating us to a riot of colourful beauty.
When we think of winter as a negative thing to be merely endured, we miss an opportunity for taking this quieter time to regenerate – like the tulip. In summer, nature is so busy and active, but in winter, things slow down. Winter could be a beautiful opportunity for spiritual reflection rather than depression.
In fact, that’s what happened with my neighbour. Irene said that one winter during a quiet time of prayer, she realized that her thinking was reflecting the weather – dark, inactive and dreary. She realized that she had just accepted this sadness as inevitable during the winter. She started thinking about Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.” What came to her was, “Wow, just to daily acknowledge the light of the Divine within me and reflect that would be revolutionary.” And it was! Slowly but surely as she consciously acknowledged that light, and reflected it in her thinking and activities, the dreariness gently disappeared. Since then, weather and sunlight have lost their ability to influence her mental well-being.
We don’t have to accept the winter blues as inevitable. Everyone has that inner light that has its source in the Divine. As we grow to understand our relationship with the unchanging goodness of God, we can enjoy each season of the year. We don’t have to wait for Spring and sunshine.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE