Finding Winter Light Go to: www.SeniorARK.com
In the winters, after he retired, my father placed a kitchen chair beside a window, and stared at the brown, and sometimes white, winter world. The activity in his life all seemed to take place during the warmer seasons. He read little, seemed not to be very interested in TV, and computers in the home did not exist. No wonder he often felt depressed until the outdoor spring cleanup could begin. And I wonder if he also suffered from a condition called S.A.D. Studies show that nearly 10% of those living in northern climates suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition believed to be caused mainly from the lack of sunlight, but perhaps also from the lack of meaningful activity in the winter. It is interesting to note that the S.A.D. percentage drops to 1.5% in Sarasota, FL - - the sunshine state. There are some practical things we can do with light therapy to fight S.A.D., and we encourage you to do a search on the web for help with it. Also search "Christian depression" for more guidance.
But for less serious cases of the winter blues, there is much we can do to accept responsibility for improving our mood. God has given this time to us, and will help us to do well in it. He is always present with us, waiting to lift us up. It is OUR responsibility to take the first steps. Perhaps I am writing on this subject because I too have experienced down moods in the winter that do not seem to occur at other times. As a child of God who has been given the winter, I refuse to waste it in a pit. I awoke this morning thinking that spring is exactly 60 days away. If I look back 60 days, it was Thanksgiving time. Seems like yesterday. And so spring will feel like tomorrow. In the meantime, let's get busy.
1. Accept your feelings as a human condition, not a spiritual failing. Christians often feel that if they have found new life in Christ, all down, depressed, or negative feelings will forever disappear, and any sign of them show a lack of faith. This is not so. At various times in his life, Jesus seemed to show an attitude that was less than joyous. He grieved. He wept for Jerusalem, and on the cross he expressed dismay that God had forsaken him.
2. Develop a healthy routine. It can be comforting and reassuring to develop and adhere to a basic routine. Get up and get dressed at the same time each morning, and go to bed at the same time each evening. Plan your meals ahead. If you are alone, determine to plan meals that require some preparation. You deserve them, and planning them will be fun.
2. Work on gratitude. Often gratitude is not a spontaneous feeling. It takes some effort. Please read the SeniorARK page, "Why Gratitude Lists". I must daily remind myself about the many things for which I am grateful. Try this each morning just after breakfast, and see if it helps. It is difficult to be grateful and depressed at the same time.
3. Reach out to others. Find a couple friends to call every day. These don't need to be long calls. Just see how you are each doing today, and what the plans are for the day. If you can get out, become acquainted with your local senior center, your library. volunteer for an activity at the church. There is always something to do there. Check your local paper for things to do, and people to meet.
4.Take a course. Your local college, or even high school, will be offering courses on interesting subjects. Pick one that you think you will like, and go. You might have fun, and meet some great people.
5. Get a pet. I have not seen a study showing that seniors who care for a pet live longer. But I'll bet they do. I do know many seniors who are much happier during any season of the year with a cat or small dog. My 80 year old neighbor has a new toy poodle, Rory (I call him killer, mocking his tiny size). Already she adores that pup, and is clearly invigorated by his antics. (The day after this message was posted, we came across this article: "How a dog's life can make you happier"1-22-07)
6. Develop an interest. We discuss, at this writing. 52 possible hobbies on our Hobby Tips page. And there must be hundreds more. Investigate and select one. If you don't like it, then try another. Go to our "Just For Fun" page and work some puzzles, or read some humor.
I have heard the expression that "MOOD FOLLOWS ACTION". And I believe it too. Often we cease all action because we have developed a depressed mood. Be bold. Turn it around. You may not be responsible for the mood you are in, but you ARE responsible for taking the first steps to change it.
Prayer: Our Father, lift us up from wherever we may be. When we are down, we need the everlasting arms to bring us up. When we are up, we need the everlasting arms to stay there. We know that with you all things are possible. So this winter, in the northern hemisphere of your earth, show us how to live richly, in the name of your Son, Amen