A woman with her arms raised breaking through a cloud to bask in the sun.

Getting Through the Darkness

In this particular case, when I reference darkness, I am talking about light....glorious light. It really fascinates me how different the daylight hours are depending on where you live. I knew this to some extent while living in Vermont, if for no other reason than the fact my family, who lived considerably south of me, would often mention it in passing.

The need for sunshine and daylight

We would be chatting on the phone and they would remark how lovely it was outside and I would respond, "Not here; it is dark and dreary." I think I chose to ignore it as much as possible, as a defense mechanism. Otherwise, it was just too depressing on top of the cold and snow, etc.

Now that we are in Virginia, the temperature and overall climate are much more moderate but, most notable to me, is the amount of sunshine and daylight we get here! I did some research and, suffice it to say, it is a very significant difference.

Vitamin D: why is it important?

The point is, those of us in these darker places, geographically, need to pay attention to how it is affecting us and how best to counter the darkness…for both our mental and physical health.  First of all, Vitamin D is crucial to our well-being and largely comes to us through sunlight. That said, if you are in a northern climate you have to pay particular attention to your vitamin D numbers.

Here a few of the crucial roles Vitamin D plays in our well-being:1

  1. Promoting healthy bones and teeth by enhancing the absorption of calcium
  2. Supporting our immune, brain and nervous systems
  3. Regulating insulin levels, supporting diabetes management
  4. Supporting lung function and cardiovascular health

Sunlight and other sources of Vitamin D

This just scratches the surface but gives you a sense of the importance of Vitamin D to our overall health. Although it is in some foods, the very best source is sunlight. There are different amounts required, depending on your skin type and location, but chat with your care team about what is best for you.

Getting Vitamin D during the winter

I tried to go outside, properly dressed, on a sunny day, even in the dead of winter, in Vermont (I will spare you the temperature details), because I knew I would feel better and my body needed it. I have never had a Vitamin D deficiency and I think that maybe why, although there is some evidence that genetics play a role in that as well.

Sunlight to help with mental health

Then there is the issue of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. My husband needed to use a blue light to get through the winters, not because of a Vitamin D deficiency, but because of the lack of light zapped his energy and made him melancholy. There are all kinds of ways to use devices to get some of that much-needed light, and they may or may not work for you. I would suggest you try them out first if you can before you invest in them.

Activities to help tolerate decreased sunlight

The short nature of our days in the winter months can make us depressed just because it shortens our day, in terms of activities to do outdoors. So, I learned to substitute it by doing things like going to dinner with friends, attending an evening class or club, going to a movie. Getting out and extending your day with others, makes the lack of light a lot more tolerable.

Darkness, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, if we learn to work with it and around it, to manage the effects.


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