Dark Days-10 Tips to Live Happier till Springtime

Evening GloomWhen the days are short and the nights are long, do you feel like crawling in a cave or at least under the covers until springtime? Do you feel like Lord Byron expressed-“I am always more religious on sunshiney days”?

Mood variation dependent on the amount of sunlight affects many of us, mostly women. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it is called, mimic those of depression-fatigue, lack of interest in things that used to be pleasurable, cravings for carbohydrates and weight gain.

If this is describing how you are feeling, here are 10 Tips:

  1. Get outside even if it’s just to rake leaves or shovel snow at least 10 minutes a day.
  2. Open all the blinds and curtains in the house to let all the sunshine in that is available.
  3. Take your laptop or book to sit by a window.
  4. Make sure you are taking enough Vitamin D.
  5. Replace your light bulbs with full (broad) spectrum ones.
  6. We are mammals. If you are getting sleepy earlier than usual, don’t fight it. Go to bed.
  7. If you must start your day before sunrise, set a timer on your bedroom light to come on a half hour before the alarm goes off.
  8. If possible, plan your vacations in January or February and go south to sunnier climes.
  9. Push yourself out of the cave. Get together with friends and do something fun. Join a Meetup group.
  10. Remember it won’t last forever. Each day from today on will have a few more minutes of sunshine!

The Dark Night and Clinical Depression

There is an interesting article on Beliefnet’s blog, Beyond Blue: A spiritual journey to mental health, in which Terese J. Borchard attempts to draw a line between the experience of loss and spiritual dryness which John of the Cross described as the Dark Night of the Soul and clinical depression.

This is difficult in many ways, especially given that, as Borchard notes, one can experience both at the same time. Her argument amounts to the fact that a religious person in the dark night is well aware of the trial that they are undergoing and may even be invigorated by the spiritual trial, while someone who is depressed simply seems depressed.

However that may be, even a casual reading of The Dark Night of the Soul, reveals an almost unending list of sufferings–physical, emotional, and spiritual–that seem a lot like depression, and, in terms of the symptoms, are indistinguishable.

My argument would be that Saint John’s path is a way of using deep depression to find God and to refine one’s spirituality. Any depression has the potential to become a Dark Night of the Soul if and when a person ceases to run from depression and accepts it as revealing a truth about the emptiness of self and the difference between the self and God.

From a psychoanalytic point of view, the best work on this is Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun, a work which links and compares mysticism and depression.

Like Borchard and Kristeva, I do believe that medication can be invaluable for the treatment of depression. I simply also would argue that depression can teach us deep truths about the universe.