This photo of Cronulla Beach in Sydney is for my son. Every now and then he surprises me with a profound insight. “I have seasonal affective disorder,” he said as he left for school this morning. “I’m longing for the sun.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the Winter Blues is a common disorder with around 2% of people in Northern Europe suffering badly from it during the winter months. It is related to an imbalance in the body’s natural Circadian rhythms due to increased periods of darkness during winter. Symptoms include feeling down, lethargic, having trouble sleeping, loss of appetite.
SAD is treated through light therapy, which involves the use of a light box several times a day, much like opening the curtains on a fine summer’s day and letting in the light. Research indicates that light in the range of 447-484 nanometers is responsible for increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain and for shifting circadian rhythms.
It has been an unusually long and dark winter in Sydney; nothing by Northern Hemisphere standards, of course; but uncommon nonetheless. We have had a few months of cold temperatures (8-12 degrees C,) with quite a bit of rain. In inner city Sydney our houses are very Victorian in flavour; all poky little rooms and dark hallways. At any moment you expect Charlotte Bronte to step out of the shadows. We have no central heating and 12 foot tall ceilings which quickly swallow up the warmth from our gas heaters. I understand where my son is coming from. We are creatures of the light in Sydney, we don’t like being cooped up indoors. But, hey, it’s spring – the jasmine and cherry blossom are in bloom. The finches are frolicking in the jacaranda. Today it is 21 degrees and the grey clouds that were threatening to bring rain have cleared. Looks like I’m in for some light therapy of my own. As George Harrison said:
“Here comes the sun, doo do doo do, here comes the sun, and I say – it’s alright!”