Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Solstice. It is a word that means sun stands still. The Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere is the the longest day and shortest night of the year and occurs in late June. It marks the beginning of summer. And from that very day, the days become shorter and nights become longer by one minute per day. As autumn approaches, it is very noticeable to those of us in the northern hemisphere that summer has turned the corner toward fall... and eventually winter.

The decreasing light and colder temperatures during fall and winter can have a unique depressive effect on the human body. The symptoms can be as serious as severe depression, but as relatively harmless as carbohydrate cravings that lead to overeating and weight gain. A significant number of people are severely affected and suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as "the winter blues").

Symptoms are at their worst in the darkest months of the winter, when the lack of bright light makes things tough on our brain chemistry. Recent research in the use of light in schools has shown that lack of natural lighting (full-spectrum lighting) and the introduction fo cool-white fluorescent bulbs, which are used in virtually all classrooms, cause: bodily stress, anxiety, hyper-activity, attention problems and other distress leading to poor learning performance. Research has further shown that people spending time learning and work in schools, classrooms and other work environments, which are illuminated with natural sunlight (full spectrum lighting), experience less stress and anxiety. They show dramatically improved behavior, attitudes, health, attendance, performance and academic achievement.

We are truly people of the light. We bathe in it (probably too much at times), we wake up to it (literally - pertaining to circadian rhythms [sleep-wake cycles), and - like moths to the flame - we are drawn to it. The Sun is the very physical source of life for this planet and its light remains a powerful influence on human behavior and well-being.

Metaphorically speaking, don't you find it interesting as well that the darker and colder our days get, the more irritable, angry and depressed we become. We venture too far from the Light and we literally start to unravel. Locked away from that source of Light, we lose track of all time, consciousness and awareness.

Research has shown, however, that exposed to even a simple light bulb for 15-to-45 minutes a day can alleviate depression and symptoms of SAD. And it holds true as well, 15-to-45 minutes a day exposed to the Light can alleviate the overwhelming sadness, pain, sorrow, doubt and frustration we often experience. We are, like moths to a flame, forever drawn to the Light.

It will eventually become a long winter for each of us in our daily life. And before it does, perhaps now may be a good time to pull up a seat and catch a couple of rays of Light.

hoedl's haven
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