End of winter, here comes the sun
This scene above was shot in Nashville last January and winter was real and harsh and I didn't like it. Maybe because I had become so used to winters in Australia where in Sydney the coldest it gets is 32 Fahrenheit (0 Celsius). Last weekend I traveled to Canberra and awoke to -2 (Celsius) temps and frost on the windscreen of the car. That was tough. But nothing like winters in Kansas.
This scene reminds me of the sunshine which is lacking during winter.
The form of depression most often associated with variations in sunlight is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The disorder runs in cycles of depression and wellness that follow the seasons -- more specifically, the availability of sunlight. Someone with SAD might feel perfectly fine in spring and summer, and then experience a severe downturn in mood when fall hits. They'll stay that way through the winter, until the sun comes out again in full force. SAD is particularly prevalent in parts of the world with little winter daylight and/or extended overcast periods, like Alaska or the U.S. Northwest.
The Guardian reported this in 2003.
"When it gets dark, a region of the brain called the pineal gland starts producing melatonin. This is thought to make our bodies cool down and feel drowsy, helping us fall asleep. But flick on the lights and melatonin production is cut off. The "hormone of darkness", as it is known, does not just make us sleepy. It has also been linked to depression. People who live in regions with very little sunlight tend to have higher levels of melatonin and are more likely to suffer from depression.
In 1997, in an attempt to bring joy to the miserably light-starved people of Helsinki, psychiatrist Timo Partonen of the National Public Health Institute gave people special lamps producing light that closely matched sunlight. After leaving the lamps on their desks throughout the winter people felt happier, less hostile and more alert.
Light also triggers changes in the brain that make us feel more cheery. Evidence is emerging that light pushes up levels of serotonin and noradrenaline, two key feel-good chemicals. People suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mild depression during winter, often crave foods like chocolate and strawberries, says Anne Farmer of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, which are high in tryptophan, a natural precursor to serotonin.
According to Partonen, physiological changes are just part of the story. "Light has been associated with good, and dark with bad. So, there is clearly a psychological influence," he says." (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/apr/24/thisweekssciencequestions3)
Maybe that's why I'm excited about winter's ending this week in Australia. I hear the Beatles singing, "Here comes the sun" and the temperatures are warming, the days are lengthening. I'm like a school kid all over again. Farewell, "long, cold, lonely winter."
No wonder we believers get excited when we ponder the coming of Messiah, too. Isaiah the prophet wrote, "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them... For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (chapter 9, verses 2, 6)
The darkness of winter, of sin, of pagan teaching infecting the Jewish religion, of self-centeredness... all came to a head in the death of Messiah. Yeshua died to bear our weakness, to take our sin, to feel and welcome the darknesses around him, that we might have the righteousness, the light, the love of God in Him. What an exchange!
The Bible says, "God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Exchange darkness for light today. Trade in winter for spring. Depression in winter, natural serotonin, longer days... here comes the Son of God!