Traveling to the Sun: The Ultimate Rescue Cure for the Winter Blues
I had taken all my own advice to stave off my own winter blues – everything, that is, short of taking medications (which I would not hesitate to take if I needed them, though I gravitate to “natural” cures whenever possible). I had faithfully used my dawn simulator and light box – lots of light boxes really. I had exercised, meditated and done yoga regularly. Don’t get me wrong – all these things helped; they helped a lot. But I had disobeyed a cardinal rule in my own guidebook for keeping Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at bay. I had undertaken a writing project with a fall-winter deadline. And it was that stress that threatened to upset my whole tower of tricks and bring on the winter blues. I didn’t have the syndrome yet – but I could see it looming on the horizon like a bank of thunderheads, making ready to unleash their fury upon the earth.
So, my deadline behind me, I took the ultimate cure. I headed for the sun – in this case, Paradise Island on the Bahamas. The moment I walked off the plane, I drank in the sun’s rays. As the poet wrote many years ago, “Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine.” My eyes drank in the photons, and my brain turned them into pure high-octane serotonin or some other mood-sustaining chemical. Even my skin contributed to this heady brew of chemicals, converting the sun’s rays into beta-endorphin despite being smeared with a generous coat of sunblock.
You may think I’m kidding about the chemical fix I was enjoying. But researchers in Australia published an article in the prestigious British journal The Lancet, in which they showed that the amount of serotonin pouring out of the brains of normal volunteers was directly proportional to the amount of sunlight on that particular day. Also, ultraviolet light causes certain skin cells to manufacture beta-endorphin, one of the body’s very own opiates.
Another type of quick fix for those needing a serotonin boost is to gobble down some high carbohydrate foods. In the days before my trip, I knew I was in trouble when I began to have fantasies of Krispy Kreme donuts with chocolate sprinkles. Luckily I made it to the plane before caving in. As I wandered around the Marina Village on Paradise Island, I was able to walk right past a store, aptly named “Oh, Sugar,” for its high caloric products. Well, I stopped in front of it long enough to take this picture.
Instead of gorging on cake and candy, I fulfilled a long-standing dream of cavorting with dolphins at Dolphin Cay at the Atlantis resort. I felt a special kinship with these sentient creatures when I learned that they lose all their hair at three months of age! Here’s a picture of me hugging one of my bald friends.
And what has happened to my Seasonal Affective Disorder? “What SAD?” is my first thought – though I know it will be waiting for me on my return. And I will dutifully get back to my program – dawn simulator, light boxes, exercise, yoga and meditation. But no more writing deadlines for me until after the spring equinox!