On Christmas morning, my husband gifted me with a light therapy lamp. For those of you who are not familiar with light therapy, it is a home-use lamp that helps combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I use my SAD lamp every day, but in this house, per the husband’s request, we refer to it as the HAPPY lamp (oh, silly wordplay and optimism!) and that is how I will refer to it here.
While it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between my winter blues and my homesick-fueled pining to be back in Florida (where it is 74 degrees today, FYI), the HAPPY lamp was a justifiable purchase. We have jokingly suggested that it was a Christmas gift for the whole family because when I’m feeling a bit dispirited or wholly miserable, everyone knows it. I make sure to tell my family and do my best to convince them that they should also be miserable. Misery loves company, right? Well, the HAPPY lamp keeps me company these days, especially when I’m no fun to be around.
Does it work? A friend of mine in Pittsburgh asked me this the other day. Her husband is having a hard time this winter and she’s considering buying one for him. While I cannot say yes or no at this point (light therapy is recommended daily for 3-4 weeks before any positive changes are felt), I can make a few other suggestions, on top of the HAPPY lamp, that are helping me get through winter here in Oklahoma. If you have suggestions of your own, please share!
- Candles: There is something comforting in soft light. I also heard a few days ago on some news show that lighting a candle that give off one’s favorite scent is an easy way to jolt one’s happiness levels. I believe this. Our house usually smells like red velvet cake, vanilla, pineapple-cilantro, or lemon-lavender at any given time.
- Greenery: I love being surrounded by trees and flowers. Winter kills this for me and, in turn, I think it makes the world ugly to me for a few months. The palm trees and loblolly pines of the south don’t shed in the fall, so to be surrounded by bare trees (and no trees, sometimes) is challenging. I brought my potted plants indoors and tend to them every few days. In fact, I’m thinking of bringing in more (my husband doesn’t know this yet) and putting a plant in every room in the house. Yes, I would like a tree in here but I can’t promise Teddy won’t pee on it.
- Comfort food: My daughter loves my homemade chicken soup. I love big, hearty breakfasts and biscuits with gravy. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn soufflé! Basically, I wish I could eat Thanksgiving dinner every day until spring, although I do find some comfort in the frozen bags of okra in my freezer and the citrus fruit my parents sent to us. Spring and summer are going to happen again, one day.
- Wistful nostalgia: In the form of photographs, I’ve been reliving warmer, sunnier days here in Oklahoma. I figured I would share some of these photos with you, too. This gives me a boost when I realize that in only 3 months I might be able to start digging up my first Oklahoma garden (even though we’re actually considering trough gardening this year, but that’s another post for another day). I plan to grow sunflowers of all sizes and colors, hollyhock, more lavender, and native wildflowers. I can’t wait until my world looks like this again!
I’ve got a few months to go.
In the meantime, I will continue to follow through with my daily dose of HAPPY lamp rays. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, increased appetite and sleep (not decreased as with other forms of depression), social withdrawal, irritability, and quite a few others. I believe wholeheartedly that the purchase and daily use of a HAPPY lamp is worth the money and time spent in front of it (it only requires 30 minutes a day for 3-4 weeks to receive the full benefits of light therapy).
I want to love Oklahoma so I do not blame Oklahoma for this. I refuse to let winter thwart my attempts to feel at home here. I suffered the same ill-effects during our Florida winters when Nor’easters would drench our coastal city for days at a time or when temperatures fell to unusual lows resulting in ice on the roads. Jacksonville natives still talk about that day in 1989 when snow flurries fell as if it were the apocalypse.
Winter happens. The seasons happen. The cycle, the renewal, and the rebirth, blah blah blah. My husband occasionally brings up the idea of vacationing in Colorado for a ski trip. I cannot be tricked into this as I know skiing involves snow which involves cold. I counter that with an idea of my own, of vacationing somewhere not covered in snow, someplace warm!
Perhaps I’ll be converted. Perhaps I’ll come to enjoy winter. Perhaps I’ll need a bigger HAPPY lamp.