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Lange: SAD

12/07/12 7:55AM By Willem Lange
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(Host) One in ten Vermonters suffer from seasonal affective disorder during mid winter. Willem Lange has some suggestions for overcoming it.

(Lange) The winter solstice is almost upon us, and I’m very glad of it. Beginning on June 22nd each year, I feel like an institution that’s drawing on the principal of its endowment. But on December 21st the earth’s north pole will be tipped about as far away from the sun as it’s going to be in our lifetimes. The next day will be just under a minute longer. Progress toward daylight will be agonizingly slow at first; but by the 22nd of January, we’ll have gained a full half-hour. And less than two weeks after that, on Candlemas Day, February 2nd, we’ll begin to have gradually warming temperatures, as well. We’ll be putting money back into the account.

Many Vermonters, especially those beyond the age of skiing, find the cold and darkness daunting and depressing. They might consider the plight of London, where the January temperature is 15 degrees warmer than it is here, but the darkness is much deeper; London’s at the same latitude as Moosonee, Ontario, on James Bay. Still farther north, in the village of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, my friend Larry tells me the sun, because of the hills to his south, goes down November 26th and reemerges in mid-January. We’ve got it relatively easy here.

Still, we do experience what amounts to an epidemic of depressive symptoms known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. During the depth of winter, only 1.4 percent of Floridians have it; in New Hampshire, it’s nearly one in ten. Sufferers can exhibit serious mood changes. They feel an increased need to sleep and cruise the kitchen for comfort food; they have little energy, and get depressed easily.

The good news is that we don’t experience the spike in alcoholism and suicide common in Finland and northern Russia. Many schools in those countries have daily hot-tub sessions with full-spectrum lights to keep the kids healthy. We can google SAD and find a host of remedies available on-line: full-spectrum desk and floor lamps – even so-called light boxes that look like miniature tanning booths – that provide the benefits of sunlight. Don’t try the tanning booth, however; it’s death on your skin.

Or, if we forgo holiday shopping and a few luxuries like eating out for a month or so, we can get out of here. Round-trip to Miami is less than a thousand dollars, about the same as from Boston to Nice on the shores of the Mediterranean. Miami is jammed with snowbirds in February and March; Nice isn’t. Its hotels are cheaper, you can dine for less, and if you like, you can join the old ladies knitting baby clothes on the topless beach beside the English Promenade.

Another sure cure for depression is driving on the French high-speed highways. You won’t have the time to get blue. Just be sure, when you stop for fuel, to check the cap for the recommended fuel. I speak from painful experience, and believe me: getting that wrong is really depressing!

This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.
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