SCENE + HEARD: Today's Read Battling Winter Darkness With Your Own Light By Gwendolyn Plummer Friday, November 19, 2021 8:30 AM NEW YORK—Every year, the end of Daylight Saving Time is a bit of a shock to the system. Sure, we’ve all done this before, but it always seems to feel like the days are shorter than we remember, and the nights darker than we imagined. Here in New York City, the sun is setting a little before 4:30 p.m. each day, making it really hard to get daily time outside while working a 9 to 5 schedule—this is even harder for people further north, or those who work longer, or different, hours.The darker days can be tough. Sunlight and outdoor time are undeniably good for us, and it can feel impossible to get enough of either of those this time a year. For about 4 percent to 6 percent of people in the U.S., the change in seasons can be even more serious—Everyday Health reports that this is the percentage of Americans with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a form of depression triggered by the changes in daylight and weather. SAD can occur in both winter and spring, but is more common this time of year, in the winter. Those with SAD should speak to a doctor as soon as possible—therapy and medication can make a serious, beneficial difference. For those who haven’t received a professional diagnosis, but find that these long, dark nights leave them feeling down in the dumps, there are still some ways to make your winter a little brighter. NPR reports that light—or the lack thereof—is at the heart of SAD, and getting more light in the winter months can be beneficial for all of us. A SAD lamp—you may have also heard it called a Happy Light—can be a game changer. The lamps generate light that’s a lot more intense than standard indoor lighting, which mimics spending time outdoors in the sunlight. You only need to use the light for about 20 or 30 minutes a day, though it may take about two weeks to feel any changes. SAD lights are available everywhere, from Amazon to Walmart. If you can help it, a SAD lamp shouldn’t totally replace going outside. Nothing can quite match the effect that fresh air and sunlight have on us, and getting outside to get some exercise in is one of the most helpful ways to relieve SAD symptoms, Everyday Health reports. Even just a noontime walk, when the sun is at its strongest, can boost your mood. If it’s too cold or wet to workout outside, don’t worry—some time on the treadmill or stationary bike, or even an indoor dance party, is good for you and your mood, too. And keep those blinds open when the sun is out—letting sunshine into your home helps too. Making sure you see loved ones can also help make the dark season feel lighter. The Mayo Clinic writes, “When you're feeling down, it can be hard to be social. Make an effort to connect with people you enjoy being around. They can offer support, a shoulder to cry on or shared laughter to give you a little boost.”What you eat can affect your mood, too. Avoiding alcohol might be a good idea if you’re feeling really down—the Mayo Clinic reports that it can worsen feelings of depression. Making sure you’re getting all your nutrients can help keep your mind working its best, and NPR reports that making sure you stop eating about three hours before bedtime can help your circadian rhythm stay on track when darkness might have sent it out of whack. Finally, some people choose to take additional vitamin D during the winter months—check in with your doctor about this one. Finally, the Danish concept of Hygge could be something to cling to in these dark, cold months. Hygge is a Danish concept of coziness—“a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture),” according to Oxford Languages. In 2016, it was a finalist for Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, The New Yorker reported, and it embodies an idea of being warm, cozy, safe and content inside, while winter rages on outside.Applied to our lives, it can look like making your home a cozy haven with candles, fuzzy blankets, and hot chocolate. Or, it can mean spending time with the ones you love to bring some light into the darkness. “The hard-earned lesson of frigid Scandinavian winters is that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes—that all you really need to get through difficult times is shelter and sustenance, kith and kin,” The New Yorker writes. Whatever approach you take this winter, it’s helpful to remember that seasons don’t last forever. Daylight will take over again soon—but until then, stay cozy.