The best cure for winter blahs doesn’t come in pill form.

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Steve Bender

This may shock you, faithful readers, but even Grumpy is subject to the vagaries of life on Earth. The persistent gloomy, cold, dark days of January have bestowed on me a condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I wake up in the morning, look out the window, and want to pull the covers right back over me. I feel there is nothing to look forward to until we uncork the wine at 5:00 PM.

Unfortunately, sleeping more in the daytime messes up my circadian rhythm. I wake up at 2:00 AM at night and lay there sleepless for hours. I think about all the things I should have done yesterday but didn’t. I dread all the things I have to do today, but don’t want to.

This is no way to spend your existence, especially when untold millions of devoted followers look to you for inspiration and enlightenment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dark, gloomy days physically affect the body in several ways that make you feel the way you do when the manuscript for your novel is rejected for the 20th time with comments like “Masters the art of boring” and “Your characters aren’t wooden, they’re stone.” The production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes you feel good, decreases. So does the production of melatonin, which affects your sleep patterns and mood.

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What to do about this? Some people resort to light boxes, devices that shine brightly upon you and mimic the wavelengths of natural light. Others suggest taking Vitamin D supplements, as less sunlight hitting your skin may result in a Vitamin D deficiency and dark moods. You can also take antidepressants, but if you’ve been paying attention to national politics lately, you’re probably already taking them.

Let Grumpy offer the best cure. It’s completely natural and it’s free. Pry your butt out of the recliner and walk outside. Do so in a mindful way, immersing your senses in a wondrous world that is more than you. 

I’m building a woodland garden in the woods behind my house. The garden changes minutely day-to-day during this time of year, but as I walk the paths, I notice the surprises. Daffodil foliage just poked up from the fallen leaves. Camellia blooms look pretty scattered on the forest floor. Chipmunks chirp and flee from me, as well they should. Birds cheep and wait patiently for me to fill the feeder. My cat, Jean-Luc, chases a squirrel up a tree. The soft moss lawn gleams brilliant green. Native bees pollinate the hellebores. Someone has a fire going in the fireplace. 

This woodland garden is my light box. Nature is my anti-depressant. There is never a day that being out there doesn’t make me feel better.

You may not have a woodland garden, but everyone has the outside, even in the state pen. Get out there and walk and see and listen and feel. The exercise will do you good. And who knows, maybe the sun will come out.

Good luck with that.