The Meaning of It All

© 2018 (all rights reserved)

An article from the December 2018 issue of THE STAR BEACON.

Photo by Doug Elmore


It's that time of year again, when activities in life slow down (for some of us) and dark-ness steals its share of our 24-hour days. In Colorado, it means colder temperatures and often snow. It's a good time to just "hole up" and enjoy life indoors. Of course, if you enjoy skiing, snowmobiling or hiking in frigid air, that's great too.

I've always enjoyed retreating inward during wintertime, and focusing my energies on creative pursuits that often get pushed aside during the warmer months of year when yard and garden work demand my time. My son talks about his views on this in his column.

Because I have a part-time job, I get up while it's still dark. Then I drive 30 miles home in the dark. Some days the sun is a total stranger, since the production room at my job has no windows and I never know if it's sunny or cloudy.

You would think that without all those summertime chores, I'd have plenty of time to work on my creative projects, mainly music and art. For some reason, fatigue sets in around 9 p.m. and it's time to either "veg-out" on the couch with Netflix, or retreat to the bedroom to read. It's futile trying to cram in every little chore and project I've set as my goals.

During winter I like to play the piano more. It's important to stay excited about life. Often people grow depressed, especially during winter months when daylight does not last as long. The condition is known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). According to doctors, S.A.D. begins and ends at about the same times every year. Symptoms sap your energy and make you feel moody.

In most cases, S.A.D. symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, there are people with the opposite pattern whose symptoms begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs and symptoms of S.A.D. may include:

• Feeling depressed most the day, nearly every day

• Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

• Having low energy

• Having problems with sleeping

• Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight

• Feeling sluggish or agitated

• Having difficulty concentrating

• Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

• Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms may include: oversleeping, appetite changes (especially craving foods high in carbohydrates), weight gain, tiredness or low energy.

You can get S.A.D. in summer as well. Those symptoms include: trouble sleeping (insomnia), poor appetite, weight loss, agitation or anxiety.

Although the specific cause of S.A.D. remains unknown, some factors that may come into play include:

(1) Your biological clock (circadian rhythm)

(2) Reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock.

(3) Serotonin levels. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.

(4) Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

The Mayo Clinic’s website suggests treating S.A.D. with light therapy, medications and psychotherapy. I say "Nuts!" to those last two, unless you have a severe case and then you really should see a physician. However, you can take steps on your own to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

Do things you enjoy and be with people who make you feel welcome in their presence. Get out once in a while and experience the outdoors, even if it's cold. As long as you dress warmly enough, a good brisk walk, even around the block, does wonders and gives you a fresher outlook on life.

Finally, dig into some project you've been putting off and commit yourself to it. Before you know it, spring will arrive and you'll have survived.

And for a good winter read, consider ordering my new novel, The Dream Chasers.


Ann Ulrich Miller is publisher of The Star Beacon and Wisp, and has authored 18 books. Check them out at






This page updated December 6, 2018


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