Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunshine Deprived

After two weeks of virtually no sunlight I realize how depressed I am.  I’ve been wearing the same pair of gray sweats for the past three days and my husband wants them back.  I’ll gladly hand them over after one more trip to the candy isle.  The management at the local grocery stores must be suffering from the same light muted malady.  Supplies for sunlight withdrawal are meager.  Three major chains were sold out of vitamin D tablets and Keebler Fudge Striped Cookies.  Despite the fact that a box of Little Debbie’s doubled in price, the only evidence that the tasty treats ever existed was the skeletal remains of an opened box of Oatmeal Cream Pies.  To Kroger’s credit they did bring in a shipment of Nutty Buddies, offering them on the “Buy One Get One Free” sale.  This helped calm the angry crowd pushing against the information desk, and the freezer doors in the pizza section were promptly returned to their hinges. 
Now while this kind of behavior can easily be associated with an education acquired in the South, it definitely bears the mark of sunlight deprivation.  Depression from the lack of sunlight is no a joke.  It is a very real thing for millions of people. Significant changes can occur in the brain as dreary winter days accumulate.  Neurons in the brain that produce norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin (which affect emotion, pleasure and cognition), were observed in the process of dying when a test subject was deprived of sunlight. Adding to this change is an increase in the production of Melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night).  Such changes in the brain lead to depression, mood swings, anxiety, inability to cope, social problems, and increased consumption of carbohydrates.  Law enforcement in Dearborn Heights Michigan sighted sun deprivation as the single cause of a group of stay at home Mom’s losing control near a local park and rolling a Sarah Lee delivery truck.   No one was injured, but the effects on some of the pre-school children at the scene left many onlookers traumatized.
One group in the UK referring to itself as “S.A.D.“ gives advice on how to cope with the emotional side effects of sun deprivation.  They reveal on their website http://www.sad.org.uk/  that Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., or the Winter Blues, is officially recognized by Doctors and Psychiatrists as a medical condition that is thought to affect 2 million people in the UK and Ireland and over 12 Million people across Northern Europe.   S.A.D. does not recommend vitamin D tablets or exercise.  Instead they offer advice on the purchase of a S.A.D. Light, which range in price anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars, depending on the quality of the lamp.  Being British, they are kind enough to provide a list of recommended manufacturers.  How convenient is that?  The only solution to such a devastating problem comes with a “Recommended List of Providers”.   If vitamins and exercise, which are recommended in the U.S., were considered options to this illness then such a profitable list would not exist.
As an American my recommendation to our English friends is somewhat different.  First of all if you live in a dark, dank, desperate place like England than $19.99 will get you a U-Haul, so you can move to a country that can afford its own sun!   The fog in London has been there for two million years and doesn’t look to be disappearing anytime soon.  Aside from the fog you have nearly eight million people occupying a space no bigger than a large urban park, and surrounded by floodplains!  You can’t see the sun for all the freaking people scootched together!  Forget about the SAD Lights and move to high ground.
If you happen to live in the great US of A, then relief from the Winter Blues is easy.  A brisk walk releases the good hormones, and exposes you to the much needed 20 minutes of sun.  Also, a cup of hot chocolate prepared with vitamin D milk is a good pick me up.  Chocolate releases endorphins that produce a feeling of happiness.  Mint is also an excellent energizer for those mood swings.  Brew yourself a cup of mint tea with a touch of honey.  Feel relief within minutes.
 One last idea to consider is a scientific advancement called “Dawn Simulation”.  Patients suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder were found to improve their mood significantly after only a few days of watching the sun rise!  This is supplied by God, no credit card necessary.   If you are a prisoner of London however, go to  http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/default.htm  and order yourself a Bluemax Dawn Simulator.  It’s one of the best systems available, and is manufactured by an American company in Jackson, Michigan.  Remember: Buy American, the light of the world.

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