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Sunday, December 21, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 4/5/2003

Springtime can put a smile on your face

For lo, winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of singing of birds is come.

- Song of Solomon

Sad is over. Even awakening to snow on Monday wasn't discouraging because we know it's spring and time for longer days and sunshine.

If smiling is easier than frowning, if you are more optimistic in April than you were in January, and if turning thumbs-down to a fudge brownie with whipped cream is a snap, then you are being freed from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the technical term for the winter blues.

During the past winter's overeating binge that included potato chips and french fries, I settled the expanding hips into an easy chair to bone up on SAD. By reading The Hibernation Response by Peter Whybrow and Robert Bahr and skimming other books, I learned why I felt better pulling a bright yellow jacket from the closet in the dead of February, and why a friend who painted two rooms buttercup yellow says just sitting in them cheers her up in winter.

The authors declare that sunshine is an emotional balm.

We who were born in Michigan or Ohio and still call this area home take the cold, gray winter doldrums for granted. We expect to gain weight and to be depressed. Occasionally, when sunshine comes our way, we put on a happy face.

Before doing my homework, I didn't realize the ways our bodies and personalities respond to sunshine and light. Now, my dream house would include a room with a southern exposure where it would be make-believe spring all year. I would paint it yellow and orange and have many large green plants and fresh herbs growing. The furniture would be dark green wicker, and every now and then I would spray it with an air freshener with a name such as Butterfly, Sunny Days, or Country Meadows.

According to Mr. Whybrow and Mr. Bahr, depression is the most prominent feature of SAD, followed by a carbohydrate craving that makes us reach for sweets, chocolate, and starchy foods that can cause a 10-pound weight gain and a decreased will to exercise. An inability to concentrate is linked to a tendency to sleep less in winter and never feel rested.

Now that spring has arrived, the next several months should be ideal. We will have a reduced appetite, so we'll be able to shed that extra weight. We will have more energy to exercise. Optimism will replace depression, and our outlook will just keep getting better as more sunny, warm months arrive. By August, I should be a shadow of my former self, and I'll be walking 10 miles a day.

Welcome sunshine.



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