When SAD Hits …

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. – 1 John 1:5 NKJV

Several years ago I spent a week in January visiting my brother in Alabama. It was nothing short of glorious for this winter-weary western Pennsylvania gal. The daytime temperature ranged from the mid-60s to the low 70s, the southern sun shone in cloudless blue skies, and a light jacket was all I needed when I ventured outside.

And outside I went every day but one, soaking in as much sunshine—and vitamin D—as I could on my daily walks. I returned home re-energized in body, mind, and spirit.

There’s energy in the sun’s rays, and for northerners like me who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), time spent in the sun is just the prescription needed to fight the lethargy, carb cravings, brain fog, low energy, and everything else associated with what’s also called the winter blues.

Living where I do, I can’t do anything about the shorter daylight hours that disrupt my body’s internal clock, but I can take steps to fight the symptoms.

Since a lack of adequate sunlight is the main cause of SAD, I spend as much time absorbing natural light during the winter months as I can. In addition to taking vitamin D supplements, I need to exercise regularly to boost my flagging metabolism and avoid the sugary and starchy foods that just create the craving for more of same.

We can suffer from spiritual SAD, too. Seasons of spiritual doldrums descend on all of us throughout life. Like with physical SAD, spiritual SAD can be overcome—but you can’t just wait it out, hoping it’ll go away on its own. You have to recognize the symptoms and make the effort to fight it.

The prescription is the same: more light, exercise, and the right food.

Get more light by spending more time with the SON.

“I am the Light of the World,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). I spend time with the Son when I read the Gospels, allowing His words to soak into my spirit. All of God’s Word, for that matter, is “lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The second Rx is exercise. Daily walking by faith boosts a flagging spiritual metabolism, strengthening flabby spiritual muscles. I exercise faith when I trust God to provide what I need and not take matters in my own pathetic hands, when I wait for His guidance and not run ahead of Him, and when, instead of demanding my own way, I leave the choice to Him.

Finally, the proper spiritual nourishment will help us avoid craving the wrong things—the junk that too often clutters our lives and clogs our joy. “My food,” Jesus once said, “is to do the will if Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). In other words, obedience.

Have you spent time with the Son today?

When S.A.D. hits, remind me, Lord, to seek the Son, for He is always shining. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 1:1–12.

© 2015 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Fighting SAD

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 8:12 (NLT)

January, for me, is a long, dark month when I want to sleep and eat more, especially bread and pasta, carbs that put on the pounds and make me feel tired and achy. Not surprising, January is when I gain the most weight and am grumpier and moodier than in other months. And take the most afternoon naps.

These are all classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that hits folks during the winter months, when the daylight hours are shortest. Scientists believe the lack of sunlight affects the output of serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. The more serotonin you produce, the better you feel. Less grumpy, hungry, and tired.

Most years, we spend a week in South Carolina between Christmas and New Year’s Day, visiting our daughter and soaking up the Southern sun. This year we didn’t make the trip. What a difference! Only two weeks into January I’m dealing with the symptoms of SAD, which seem worse than other years. I attribute that to no Southern sun and all the gray, cloudy, dreary days we’ve endured here in Western Pennsylvania these past few months.

Since serotonin is affected by the amount of time spent in natural sunlight, the treatment for SAD is simple: more light.

Bright light therapy involves spending at least half an hour, usually in the morning, before a bright lamp called a light box specifically made to simulate natural sunlight.

This year I invested in a SAD lamp. I noticed a difference the first day I used it. I wasn’t so draggy and depressed. These SAD lamps are effective, but I need to stick with the program until the season changes and not stop once I start feeling better.

Biblically, darkness represents evil, sin, and ignorance – a lack of the knowledge of God and His goodness. Just as physical darkness is the absence of light, so spiritual darkness is the absence of the Light – the Son that shines in our souls when we open our hearts and lives and let Him in.

But throwing open the windows of our souls one time isn’t enough the help us as we battle the darkness of the world in which we must live. Just like a person affected by SAD must spend at least half an hour every morning absorbing light, so must our spirits spend time with the Light of the World every day, absorbing His Word and basking in His presence through prayer.

This – and only this – will give us the energy to say no to the bad carbs of temptation and avoid adding the weight of sin to our world-weary spirits. Spending time in the Sonlight will give us energy to exercise righteousness and will satisfy the taste buds of our souls (“O taste and see that the LORD is good” –Psalm 34:8).

The season of darkness won’t be over until Jesus, the Son of God, returns, but until then, you can fight the January blahs – both physically and spiritually – with a two-word plan: Fiat lux – Latin for “Let there be light!”

Thank you, Lord, for Your unending light that warms me, lightens my path, and fills me energy. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ephesians 5:8–14

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.