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 bahamas_beach_1see 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.

Norman Rosenthal Dolphin

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!

8 Replies to “Traveling to the Sun: The Ultimate Rescue Cure for the Winter Blues”

  1. Alma says:

    Hello I’m from Guatemala but I’m living in Toronto, I was reading a book and your name was there telling that you have a natural medicine called st.jhon’s I search about you and I found that you’re great, now I taking that medicine for my depression and I’m feel better, thank you Doctor for that and for the words that you said it really inspire me, God bless you.

  2. Catalina says:

    I just love your writing style! A real pleasure whenever I see that you have posted 🙂

  3. Tracy says:

    Great words and sweet dolphin tale. I’m totally enjoying your book, Transcendence – thank you for all your efforts and energy. I’ve been practicing TM for 8 years and I’m still blown away by the effect and impact it has on my life and on others!

  4. Ros says:

    Hi, I’ve just acquired your book ‘Winter Blues’ and it’s all falling into place! Having moved back to UK 4 years ago,after spending most of my life in the sun, I now recognize a pattern – That awful sinking feeling which hits me when November arrives and I desperately search for sun and light…. it isn’t my imagination… it is SAD. Yes, I agree, that a winter escape to the SUN is the ultimate cure, but in the meantime, when finances won’t allow, your book is helping me enormously – thanks!

  5. Carla says:

    I just booked my first trip to a sunny destination as a desperate attempt to manage winter blues! This is after decades of struggling with the tendency to get quite overwhelmed feelings in the winter while residing in my native land of NJ! (February is the absolute worst month for me!!! ?). So we’ll see if Florida is a cure all (I leave this Sunday :); or if nothing else, a much needed escape until the Spring! I literally got tears in my eyes ?when I read the description of you stepping off the plane in the Bahamas! ?

  6. Jose says:

    I live in NJ (I’m not the other commenter who does), and also decided just as recently to go to Florida. My depression was becoming severe, sleeping 14-20 hours per day for a couple months. I’m happy to say going to Florida was a success. By the 2nd or 3rd day, I no longer was sleeping a long time, no longer was I craving carbohydrates, no longer did I have thoughts of disappearing, of fading away, of feeling everything is pointless. The horrible dreams of finding rope a hope of sort, they stopped. Instead I was excited, motivated, curious, energized, refreshed, astounded, and content. It’s been two weeks and some mild symptoms of tiredness remain, but I have been incredibly productive, taking care of repairs and a stack of paperwork I have neglected from the last episode. The trip was a success, exceeding my expectation. Note: I went camping there.

    1. Ralph says:

      How did you feel when you returned from Florida?

  7. Steve Ross says:

    I am a 66 y.o. male. Got my annual SAD in early November. (Third time in four years.) Got depressed, with accompanying anxiety and low libido. Feel real bad, crying, mostly in the morning. I am taking Wellbutrin, around 60 mg/day in the morning. (Wellbutrin makes me hypersexual, just not as bad as 150 or 300, which they put me on initially.) All endocrine, blood tests are normal. I use a lightbox, but it’s hard to know if it works. (I, too, had to produce a book on deadline, last spring, and it was very stressful as the SAD had not yet abated.) Last summer, from June to October, was fine, as I was in the sun all day talking to people by the pool. My psychiatrist suggested I try Rx folic acid to help the Wellbutrin to work better. I’m going to Florida for a month from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. I hope that works. My wife has saved my life.

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