Blue Monday

Psalm 147:16,17 He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?

This year I have been reading a seasonal devotional by Sister Stan called ‘Gardening the Soul’. It has not been an easy read for a more hand clapping charismatic but one thing that has been hugely inspiring has been Sister Stan’s reconnection to the seasons that God has created. I have realised over the year how sensitive I am to the impact of the changing seasons but how, living in London I have actually forgotten to pay attention to the natural world.

The diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder provides a useful qualification for people who suffer from a depressive impact of the diminishing light. Finland reports a prevalence of 9.5% of its population suffer from SAD! It is however essential to realise that everyone, regardless of their emotional sensitivity, reacts to the changing seasons. I recognise a particular optimism that dawns in my life around April every year. I thrive on the longer days, love running into the evening sun and anticipate the Mayfly hatches on the trout lake!

Many of us also recognise that the months of January and February present a less rosy picture. The days are still dark, the weather freezing cold and there is a huge draw to snuggling under the duvet and watching X-Factor repeats! Our propensity to hibernate from the elements are in themselves self-fulfilling: The less we brave the elements, the less light (Melatonin) we benefit from and the less exercise we receive.

The winter need not necessitate the inactivity and pessimism and there is much to be enjoyed about this beautiful time of year. The key challenge is against our own defensive behaviour. Below are my top ten tips for keeping depressive feelings away in the darker months:

1) Buy the right kit for the season: Treat yourself to a sensible array of warm winter outer clothes. If you can, don’t skimp on these, get down to a good outdoor shop and get suited and booted with coat, hat, gloves, boots and fleece.

2) Get out and active. Try and go for a brisk walk in your new kit everyday after work. If you can get out in the light all the better, face the setting sun and get as much light on your face as possible.

3) If you work in an office and go in and out in the dark take a lunch break walk or take an outside café seat (with your coat and hat on!)

4) Review your financial situation and make a sensible budget for the year ahead. Try to avoid hiding from from your problems as well as the weather! 

5) Turn the heating down by 5 degrees, the warmer and cosier we are inside the more lethargic and reluctant we become to stay active (plus you help the environment too!)

6) Keep up communication. People often become isolated in the winter which leads to depressive thinking and rumination. Use your free mobile minutes and texts up every month by calling “Just for a chat”. Invite people over to join you watching X-Factor rather than being alone!

7) Get to church. Every vicar sees slushy rain and removes the last five rows of chairs! Let’s save him the effort and get there to worship Jesus whatever the weather.

8) Keep an eye on the diet. The cold and dark can make us reach for the wine and chocolate far too quickly. Healthy eating in the winter makes more sense than in the summer months when we would be more active.

9) Get an indoor creative project set up. This could be a craft, giant puzzle, DIY job, restoration project, model railway…you know the thing. Creativity gives us a sense of wellbeing and optimism, plus it uses our God given talents. Try this as an alternative to TV at least one night per week.

10) Be more aware of the changing seasons and less reactionary. Go on a walk where you admire the tree and light giving thanks to God for all he has made. Thankfulness is a great antidote to hostility!
Will Van Der Hart, 18/01/2016
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