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It’s one measly hour. Sixty minutes. So why does it affect us so much when we flip the clocks back or ahead by an hour? It’s amazing how much our bodies rely on daylight to feel energized and healthy.
The good news is we’ll be able to see our way to the car in the morning now – for a few weeks at least. Of course, the bad news is that instead of getting dark at 6 p.m., it will now be pitch black by 5.
I don’t think I suffer from seasonal adjustment disorder (SAD) but apparently I’m one of the lucky ones. The end of daylight time can be very difficult for some people, possibly even increasing their struggles with depression.
That first day when the night closes in before dinnertime is a bit of a shock and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. But it doesn’t bother me much. I try to get some sunshine in the middle of the day during November and early December, because I know it will be dark when I wake up and dark when I return home at the end of the day.
Studies have been done in psychiatric hospitals as daylight time comes to an end. Consistently, the number of patients suffering from depression rises about 10 per cent or more as a result of the loss of an hour of sunlight at the end of the day. The new cases gradually diminish but it takes a couple of months.
The extra hour of daylight in the morning doesn’t make up for the lost hour of light in the afternoon because most of us aren’t outside in the morning. We’re still puttering around the house, getting ready for the day.
So why do we do this to ourselves? It seems like following daylight time just makes it that much harder to adjust when it comes to an end.
If there is such a thing as spring fever, there must be an opposite condition that manifests in the fall. If the warm sunshine gives you a burst of manic energy in the spring, it’s quite likely that you’ll also be sensitive to the shorter days in autumn. You feel like napping in the middle of the day and you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
I honestly believe I have a whole different personality in the fall. I may not suffer with depression like some people but I admit to being more forgetful, lazy and undecided. It could be all that bread I’m eating, stocking up on carbs and putting on a layer of fat to keep me warm all winter. Wheat, I’ve discovered, may induce a feeling of comfort but it comes with a brain fog.
Unlike in the spring, when I feel compelled to give myself a makeover, start a new project and buy new clothes, in the fall I cancel hair appointments, save my money and procrastinate like a boss.
Maybe we should cut ourselves some slack. It’s normal to want to hibernate in the colder months, so perhaps we should embrace it. Stock up on herbal tea, buy a beautiful mug and some of those comfy reading socks. Order books online from a favourite author and throw another log on the fire.
During those short daylight hours, we need to make a conscious effort to get outside. Walk the dog, rake the leaves or shovel the snow. Fill your lungs with that gorgeous fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Even 10 minutes of direct sunlight a day can go a long way toward improving your overall mood and sense of well-being.
Some people use a sun lamp to help with their SAD. Some people follow the sun to warmer climes until it returns to our country.
If you’re reading this, daylight time has ended once again – for the parts of Canada that practise it. Get yourself a bottle of vitamin D supplements and pull your reading chair a little closer to the window, where you can curl up like a cat in the natural light.
Maybe someday the powers that be will get smart and realize that springing ahead an hour in order to lengthen the day is not only obsolete, it isn’t worth the stress of changing back to standard time when it’s over.
Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.
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