Tag Archives: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Why I’m Starting My Light Therapy Sessions Earlier This Year

A hand reaching up to touch a bright lightbulbI am not a doctor, and this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider to see if light therapy lamps are right for you.

Last winter I talked about how much light therapy helps me with my winter blues.

When I stopped using it during our sunniest months here in Ontario, I wondered when I should start up again but decided to defer that decision until autumn.

This spring and summer were filled with the glorious light that lifts my mood every year. Like life for almost everyone else on Earth, they were also filled with the cancellation of many long-anticipated events thanks to Covid-19.

I smiled and made the best of the outdoor, physically-distanced activities that were still safe to do, but with autumn coming up I wondered how my mental health would fare once it was cold and dark here once again.

This isn’t meant to sound like a complaint, by the way. Cancelling all of those festivals, parades, and events was absolutely the right thing to do from a public health perspective. I’m also grateful for my good physical health, safe home, and all of the other advantages I have that so many others do not.

And yet there is also something sad about missing out on almost everything you love about spring and summer only to begin the plunge into another long, dark cold season. This became even more true as I read about the cancellation of Halloween on Church and our mayor discussing the possibility of cancelling trick-or-treating as well. My favourite holiday will either be cancelled altogether or is going to be nothing at all like it was in the past.

At this point, I suspect every upcoming holiday will be celebrated virtually, within the same household (or small social bubble), or not at all until enough people have been vaccinated against this disease to stop it in its tracks.

There’s nothing I can do to change things like these. What I could do was start using my light therapy lamp earlier this month as soon as the first faint whispers of autumn appeared in the form of dark, cloudy days.

A blue lamp that is turned on and releasing light against a plain white wall. I’d forgotten how bright it was. That one little lamp fills the whole room with light and still has some left over to spare.It doesn’t emit heat the way the sun does when you’re outside on a bright summer day, but it otherwise feels something similar to that experience.

(Yes, I purposefully picked photos of dimmer lights for this post. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s eyes).

It’s still a little too early for me to feel the effects of it, but that also means it should start working long before November arrives and we start seeing sunsets before 5 pm.

What creative ways are you planning to celebrate upcoming holidays?  If you also have a light therapy lamp, when did or will you begin using it this year?

Do Your Reading Habits Fluctuate By Season?

Green framed eyeglasses on top of a stack of three books My reading habits have followed a pretty predictable pattern for years now.

Summer

In early summer, I spend too much time outside enjoying the comfortable weather to read much. This period of time doesn’t last long, so I’d generally rather go hiking or do other outdoor activities that will soon become uncomfortable when the first heat wave arrives.

As the temperatures and humidity rise, so does my reading time. Sometimes I’ll go outside to read if I can find a shady spot for that. There’s something refreshing about burying your nose in a book while also catching a stray breeze and hearing the friendly rustle of leaves in the trees.

Horror can be a fun genre to dive into at this time of the year. I also tend to start feeling more interested in history books during the summer for reasons I’ve never figured out.

Autumn

Autumn is gorgeous here once the heat of September melts away. My reading rate slows down once again as it becomes more feasible to spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the autumn colours and cooler weather.

When I do feel the urge to read, it tends to be science fiction, fantasy, history, or, my personal favourite, ghost stories. The closer we get to Halloween, the more likely it is I’ll want to read something in homage to my favourite holiday. Biographies can be okay in small doses, too, although I tend to stock those titles away for the truly cold days to come.

Winter

To put it generously, I am not a winter person. The cold, dark days here make me feel sad, especially after the winter holidays end and we still have more than three months to go until any semblance of spring weather might appear.

This is the time of year when I read ravenously. I tend to avoid horror and very dark subject matter until I feel happier, but I’ll dive into literally anything else: poetry, the classics, fairy tales, mysteries, science fiction, biographies, history, and even the occasional romance novel! This is also when I tend to reread old favourites.

Spring

This season often gets a slow, muddy start in Ontario, so I like to read anything that reminds me of the warmer days that are sure to follow…eventually.

As the temperatures warm up, my reading rates slow down again because it’s finally warm outside again and I want to enjoy the outdoors before summer arrives.

Books about food and cooking become more interesting to me in early spring, and that only increases over time. Maybe it’s because I’m dreaming of all of the delicious food that will soon be in season?

I also tend to read less fiction during this season, especially anything speculative like science fiction or fantasy. Nonfiction is usually most appealing then, although I curiously don’t feel as compelled to read history books or biographies until cold weather returns.

Do your reading habits shift throughout the year like mine do? If so, what patterns have you noticed?

On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

A desk lamp shining down on a houseplantMy name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant.

Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring.

If winter in Ontario included as many bright, sunny days as spring and summer did, this post might be quite different.

But our winters include months of long, dark nights that make me half-forget what it’s like to feel warm sunlight on my face.

And having access to enough bright light is important for my mental health. It boggles my mind that some people on this planet live in places that don’t see the sun for months on end. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that well at all unless someone invents a way for humans to go dormant for the winter like real plants do.

Luckily, there are light therapy lamps for wilted houseplants like myself. I’ve been basking in the glow of that artificial sunshine this winter.

Sometimes I sat there and surfed the Internet on my cell phone. It was an especially good way to pass the time when I first accepted the fact that I needed to use one of these lamps but was skeptical about if it would do any good.

If actual plants had opposable thumbs, they might look at cute animal pictures while soaking up light, too, so they didn’t have to count down how many weeks left until spring or how many weeks after that it will take the weather systems in Ontario to shift from cold, wet, and slushy to anything that bears the faintest resemblance to true spring weather.

Then it started to work.The sadness began to lessen. I could concentrate better, I felt less sluggish, my energy levels slowly began rising, and my quality of sleep improved.

Am I back to my old self yet? No, but I’m doing better. That’s something to celebrate, especially as we inch into the time of the year that is the most challenging for me to get through.

For now I sit next to my lamp and chuckle at the fact that I react so much to the lack or the presence of sufficiently strong light. I am entirely human-shaped, and yet somehow I still need to bask in light like a plant to function properly.

When that thought passes, others don’t take its place. In this moment, I am surrounded by light. I breathe in and out as it shines onto me, the desk, the chair, and the floor.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that simple.