The Dark Night Returns
It's December and damn, I miss the sunlight
December has arrived, and with it come the darkest days of the year.
This isn't just some figure of speech. I mean this quite literally. It's December now, and it's always dark outside.
The manipulation of our daylight hours, through both natural and manmade means, has always had a profound effect on our moods. As the months slowly grow colder and the Earth's tilt gradually sends us sliding away from daylight, I can't help but feel a little anxious as seasonal depression ultimately kicks in, no matter how much I try to fight it.
I think a big reason for this is that I love the outdoors. I'm your prototypical Southern California boy. I love long days at the beach, hiking in the mountains, running along the bike path, or just exploring the city. These activities keep me feeling alive in my midlife years.
Watching the daylight slowly dwindle between the height of summer to the dead of winter causes a kind of subtle, helpless pain. To think that just six months ago I was able to stay out past 8 pm to watch a sunset that now occurs at just past 4:30 pm every day. That's nearly 3 and a half hours of wonderful sunlight that has just evaporated into the ether sometime between July and December.
The early sunset causes us to retreat indoors prematurely, and it sucks. Since we yanked the plug on Daylight Savings time last month, the darkness only seems to be creeping in earlier and earlier. I've been doing all of the things I love far less. My running days have become more and more sporadic, and my trips to the beach and mountains have become nearly nonexistent.
Don't get me wrong, I've been doing other things to fill the void. I've picked up an incredibly nurturing mindfulness practice, and I've been journaling daily. Still, as much as they help smooth the edges, I'm missing that physical element that comes with being outside. There have been studies linking the lack of vitamin D and depression. But I think there’s more to it than that because even as I pop my extra vitamin D capsule in the morning, I’m still missing something that only comes with being bathed in actual sunlight.
The weekdays especially hurt during the dark days of December. I spend all day rattling off emails in the office, wasting the precious daylight hours that I do have camped behind the steady electric buzz of a trio of computer monitors. All I can do is helplessly look out the window, wishing that I could be out there, and when that proverbial 5 o'clock whistle finally blows, I amble out into the parking lot under darkened skies.
It can't be a coincidence that the holidays we mainly associate with this time of the year, Christmas and Hunnukah, both have bright lights as a core component of the festivities. They're also the times when we seek the comfort and warmth of our loved ones, perhaps to fortify ourselves with the hope and joy that we lack in our surroundings this time of the year and combat the innate darkness of the season.
Unlike the summer, where you merely have to endure the physical heat, there is an additional mental component that you must contend with in the wintertime. In addition to weathering the cold of the season, you must also forge through the days of premature darkness and the emotional, circadian toll that may take. Keep your loved ones close during the dark months. That's all I gotta say. Throw on a coat and go for a walk during the weekend. Soak up whatever daytime you can and keep reminding yourself that on the other side of this, literal brighter days lie ahead.
How have you been faring during the dark days of December? Sound off in the comments! Since MidThoughts is still in its infancy, your feedback is vital in growing this community and delivering compelling content that resonates with you.
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Quick announcement: I’ll be on vacation from the 19th through the remainder of the year, which may or may not affect the timing of the next issue of MidThoughts, but I have a couple of real hum-dingers coming up that I think you all will enjoy. So stay tuned!