Seasonal affective disorder sucks. I think most people would agree that the weather deeply influences their mood and their perspective on the world. I wrote about seasonal depression, the turning of the seasons, the beauty of spring, the circuitous pattern of life.
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The greyness of winter is unrelenting: The colors of the world are dulled; Our personalities, our moods weary. The world is not quite as interesting as we’re confined indoors. Our outfits are marked by big jackets, hats, gloves all preventing the needed Vitamin D from the sun from reaching our skin. The sun rises late and sets early; for most of us, for a few months we only see the sun through the window or as it sets when we leave our day jobs.
We are affected by the seasons, by the weather. It’s hard not to be. When the world is greyer, it’s hard to imagine how we could be excited about life. We don’t realize just how dim the world is during winter, until we do. Color is the vibrance that provides us excitement; blooming flowers and green grass remind us that life is full of excitement. The way beauty influences our brains can’t be overstated. On the first day of nice weather after a cold winter, the world is perceptibly brighter. The sun shines brighter, the breeze of wind carries a slight warmth, the smell of flowers reminds us of our deep evolutionary relationship with nature. People are cheerier.
Every year this happens. Our years begin with cold weather, gloomy skies, viruses, and a greyscale world. It seems almost overnight that the world goes from greyscale to vibrancy; almost as if the slider on the picture of life cranks the vibrance up from zero. You see white, pink, yellow, purple, orange flowers in colors that seem fake, like the flowers on the planet in Avatar. The grass, no longer dead, is suddenly a lush green. Of course this doesn’t happen overnight; if you’re looking closely, you’ll see the buds of flowers blooming weeks before the weather warms up.
We can’t hibernate, but in some ways, our generally dreadful moods for the months of January and February are a sort of emotional hibernation. It’s hard to persevere through these moods; humans are notoriously bad about judging our circumstances. The difference between winter and spring is so stark that it never fails that we forget how exciting, how colorful, how beautiful life can be. But in the same way that joy can’t exist without pain, it’s hard for life to exist without death, or for color to exist without grey.
Spring will begin in the next few weeks. Sure enough there will be some cold days here and there, but the sun will set later and the color of the world will begin to reappear. We will be reminded of how beautiful the world is and how much humans tend to enjoy a brighter world. We will leave winter and its greyness behind, convincing ourselves that it won’t return again since next January sounds so far away.
The turning of the seasons is an exciting time and opportunity. It presents us a chance to reflect, to recognize the importance of sitting with ourselves. For how badly winter sucks for most of us, these months tend to stabilize us and to remind us of what we find dear. Spring reminds us how important it is to stop and smell the roses. It’s often not until we go through something that breaks our heart that we recognize the importance of slowing down. Spring, in its vibrance, shows us how beautiful the world is.
Through the worst of seasonal or general depression, it seems like it will never come to an end. Winter isn’t so much different. We don’t tend to despise the length of winter but rather its presence; depression, even in its shortest bouts, feels like an eternity, its mere presence wreaking havoc on us.
As we’re reminded of the beauty of spring when flowers begin blooming, we can learn to re-frame our perspective on the world. The dearth of beautiful flowers that will soon begin popping up in your periphery will begin to cheer you up as you focus on them; life isn’t that much different. In the hardest moments of life, we can re-frame our perspective to cherish the support and beautiful ways others are there to support us.
Thanks for reading, friends! I’m so ready for spring and can’t wait for March to start to bury winter behind us. This newsletter is going to change in the next few weeks: It will likely become more formatted and I think I may try to make it twice per week for a few weeks to gauge how people feel. If you have any thoughts on that, please respond or comment and let me know! I need some tough feedback!
Other writings: Today (2/29) is rare disease day so for my Cystic Fibrosis News Today column, I wrote about what makes me rare.