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Winter is coming (42floors.com)
253 points by jaf12duke on Oct 28, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 154 comments

Complaining about the winter in SF? Really? I understand seasonal depression, but that can't even hold a candle to the bullshit we see up here in the Great Salted North.

I wake up and bike to work during the winters here... It's pitch black until after 8 AM. After work? Darkness and cold by 5 PM. This is for around 5 months of the year up here. Sure, shit gets annoying during the nastiness of November through March, but you get through it.

A winter in SF would be a vacation.

Edit: Didn't mean to be incendiary here, just wanted to put things in perspective.

Except that Jason isn't complaining about the Winter. He was pointing out that it affects his state of mind. Surprisingly, a number of people don't recognize this.

Now I'm not particularly affected by seasonality, my daughters are sometimes the opposite, they love the winter because it is when they can go skiiing. But that aspect of it (the looking forward to it) I found is a behavior modifier.

If you find yourself always doing things that you don't like in a particular season, that can affect your mood, you pre-anticipate the sadness. Just like if you do lots of things you like you pre-anticipate the goodness. I figured that to keep balanced the only choice was to find things to like about all unavoidable conditions. Doesn't always work, but it helps.

"you pre-anticipate the goodness"

That's pretty much exactly how I feel about skiing at this time of year - even though I'm in my 40s I still get a childish level of excitement looking out for snowfalls and trying to work out when we can go skiing first (which here in Scotland can be anytime between November and January).

Seriously! Just find something wintry you can enjoy (and with skiing, enjoy more than almost any other activity) and you'll never dread the great white winter ever again.

I'm new to SF, but as far as I can tell it doesn't get cold enough to create new opportunities, just cold enough to make normal outdoor activities a lot less fun.

You don't have to go skiing _in_ San Francisco, you just have to mentally link the colder weather with snow in Tahoe.

Exactly, we don't usually get a lot of snow here in Edinburgh - but there are 4 ski areas within two to three hours drive of here (Cairngorm, Nevis Range, Glencoe and Glenshee - in my personal order of preference).

Having said that, sometimes we do get plenty snow here and then our ample supply of hills is quite handy:


I finally moved y family to somewhere that I can go snowboarding in the winter without making it a week long event!

Thanks for putting this into perspective.

I say the same thing when people complain that diabetes is an issue that needs to be addressed. Sure, it's not a good thing, but what about cancer? People with cancer would love to trade it for diabetes. I firmly believe that everyone working on non-cancer research should quit their jobs and work on more meaningful problems.

Also, people working on social apps are wasting their time. Why not work on delivering clean water to third world countries?

And why do people complain about not being able to find jobs here in America? I mean, life isn't that bad, is it? They really should quit whining since there are others in other parts of the world who are dying of starvation.

And isn't it sad that millions of people spend millions of dollars a year on Starbucks coffee? Why don't they instead spend all that money on donating to the homeless? Or donating to the Red Cross?

Anyway, thanks for bringing up this important point. There are so many problems in this world that just aren't worth our time because there's always something much worse out there.

"Sarcasm isn't advanced, it's the inexperienced man's preference."

"A witty saying proves nothing."

I would agree, although I'd also say there's nothing particularly witty or clever about the one I posted.

And it didn't really have a point. Unless your intention was to refute the message of mine through ad-hominem-via-rap-lyrics.

I assure you it had a point, and I apologize if it was obscured by way of the quote. The point being that, well, perhaps your point would be better expressed through non-sarcastic means.

No ad hominem was intended, it was more of a critique of the general idea of forming rebuttals that consist of sarcastic remarks.

Except maybe on the basis of the substance delivered? He makes a fair point sarcasm or not.

So all seven billion people need to be working on keeping all seven billion at the same general health level, rather than anything they might personally be interested in or skilled at?

I'm pretty sure that kyro was being sarcastic.

The important comparison is not the cause but the outcome. I've lived in Boston, New Hampshire, Scotland, and San Francisco. And in each, I've suffered from seasonal depression.

A winter depression in any city is no vacation.

I second this.

No, I "just" have the "winter blues", not a real depression, for witch I am glad.

But knowing someone who does really, really well (and being empathic) just shows me year for year, that there really are a lot of people who just don't get it and try to "cheer" the depressed up.

Know what: Doesn't help, often makes it worse, if they say "Hey, there and there it is much worse, get up, get your sht together, don't make such a fuss...

... and so on.

Try being empathic, we all have our dark hours. Some have it darker, some a little bit lighter. Some are on the bright side, some not so. But we are in this world together and postings like the trolling grandparent really help no one.

So heads up, turn on the lights and I wish you the best during the coming month.

Greetings from Germany. If you are ever in Hamburg, Germany I'd be happy to invite you to a beer/tea/coffee or such.

My sister has issues with SAD, and she lives in Texas. I don't know if it just went unrecognized while she lived here, or everyone else is just so bitter during that time that it's just the norm. It seems the folks I know with SAD issues are from very temperate zones, which makes no sense to me when I know what I have to do the next day: trudge through 17 degree F temperatures at 7 AM on a bicycle.

My Mother has SAD, suffered for years with it in various parts of CA (too much gloom during winter, even though the days were long and sunny spring-autumns), but now lives in a northern mid-west state. We discovered that SAD doesn't affect her as much there for a couple reasons we can only guess at. The sun was out more often even on bone-chilling days, and the snow on the ground reflecting the light was far, far better for her than the gloomy rainy winter days of CA.

It was a nice surprise that a colder/Winter state was better for her particular SAD. Seems very counter-intuitive at first, but sometimes an individual's needs aren't so clear. And I just gotta reiterate... the snow reflecting more light into a home, combined with it adding the whole ambiance of a Winter look (rather than the sight of gloom or leafless plants in a more temperate state during winter) seems to have a real beneficial effect. Of course, individual results will vary, this only works for one particular case, but it's still of interest how SAD works and affects each person.

I live in Houston, and have problems with SAD. Even though I absolutely love fall/winter and colder temperatures, I've been very in-the-dumps lately as our local weather transitions to what counts as "winter" here. Need to start taking VitD again.

For reference, I grew up in southwestern Oklahoma (far enough north to have snow and winters where the cold/ice was a problem), and lived in Austin from 1996-2005.

Well said. Do you use a 10K LUX lamp to help with the winter blues/seasonal depression? I find it helps me. 1 hour of it in the morning while I read a book and I'm good to go.

I don't really think that being flip about this very real issue is helping anyone. And, honestly? As someone from Pittsburgh now living in a milder part of the country, nobody is amused by the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that people get about how hard their winters are compared to elsewhere. I mean, you might as well brag about contaminants in the water supply or how corrupt your local government is.

Why does it really matter if it's NY, SF, or anything in between? His SAD is due to a lack of sunlight and not cold temperatures. It also affects some people much more than others. I seem immune to it and don't miss daylight a bit during the winter months, while my wife must have a lamp for 15 minutes a day or else depression starts to set in.

His SAD is due to a lack of sunlight and not cold temperatures.

I also need sunlight. When I lived in Denver I loved the winters. It got cold, but the sun was shining bright almost every day. It was refreshing to walk out in a nice chill while the sun blazes down. I've talked to friends who lived in the midwest and it sounded horrible. Months of overcast and cole weather. No thanks.

Will have to agree here. As someone who's working from Canada, this post is semi-funny.

I've worked from SF October to January, and let me tell you that biking around town in a t-shirt is not winter.

It's about daylight exposure, not temp. Working indoors is a relatively new phenomenon in humans and effects us all a little differently.

When it's dark when you go into work, and you don't have a corner office, and it's dark when you leave your body gets no sunlight. For some, this has a profound effect on mood.

Remember that the days are even shorter in Canadian winter, too.

SF's shortest day of the year is 9.4 hours long. Toronto's shortest day is 8.7 hours long, and Toronto is one of Canada's southern-most cities. Montreal and Quebec City have it worse, but those poor damned Calgarians take the cake with only 7.7 hours of daylight on Christmas.

Only about 45 minutes difference from SF here in Hamilton, but still, it's that much closer to being completely eclipsed by the 8-hour workday.

"completely eclipsed by the 8-hour workday"

Which brings up the mythological tradition that "real programmers" at "real companies" all work 60 to 80 hour death marches all the time, err, at least according to people who (edited to add: think they) make money when their employees go on death marches. Anyway even in summer I think a potential SAD suffer could theoretically spend weeks not seeing sunlight, and that might be an interesting factor in programming death marches. I'm not trying to encourage a new dotcom management fad of "deathmarches are OK as long as you install bright lights by the Foosball table" but it is interesting to contemplate.

I never stop being surprised by just how far south everyone lives in Canada. London gets about 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight on the shortest day; in Scotland it's less than 7 hours.

Yes, we're almost all huddled in a narrow ribbon against the southern border.

I never stop being surprised y how temperate Western European climates are at equivalent (or higher!) latitudes to ours. "Surprised" is a bit of a euphemism—"pissed off" might be more like it :)

One compensation where I live is that even when the days are cold and short, they are usually brilliantly sunny.

Yep, the gulf stream.

Being in California I was very surprised on a trip to Kansas City once, went from beach weather to snow drifts. A warm ocean nearby makes a huge difference.

One interesting thing to do is to scroll a Google Map world-view sideways, with your finger on European cities, and see where the correspond around the world. It's very surprising (and visual too).

I live in northern Norway. Soon I won't see the sun more than a few hours a day and later it will disappear and not come back before the spring. :(

Not being able to see daylight from your workplace is illegal in most Western countries. With the exception of certain jobs where it is impossible to avoid of course.

Really? I've seen offices in the USA, Australia and England that don't have a view out a window, I'd be surprised if they were all breaking some laws. Can you give any specific countries?

Observationally I think there's a huge exercise component, in past centuries miners, textile/sweatshop workers, and assemblyline workers didn't seem to suffer.

Weren't their lives pretty miserable anyway? Can you max out your unhappiness meter?

That's an interesting theory. Data about union votes to start/end strikes vs month of year vs latitude could show some correlation where union outdoor worker hotheads in June will strike till they win but in January some important percentage of them would be more likely to give up. I don't think the data shows a correlation but a more serious attempt at research might find something.

Totally agree (I think temp also plays a role, if your body is working harder to preserve higher temperatures = more tired).

I was only imagining how this blog post would of been about 10x its size if the author lived in Norway or Finland. It's good to keep an eye on these things but luckily for the author, SF is one of the places where the sun hits the most, even in the winter.

I have biked and walked in a t-shirt in -17 Celsius. Cold temperature t-shirt tolerance varies a lot with people.

I just really hate wearing jackets in the city and prefer to endure than to wear one.

He is talking about a mental affliction and how the time of year affects it... not making small talk about the weather.

Complaining about winter in the Great Salted North? Obviously not far enough north! That doesn't hold a candle to what 'we' see up in (Iceland|Greenland|Alaska|Yellowknife|Siberia). We can play this game all day long, or we could do something more constructive than 'brag' about how hard you have it.

Misery and discomfort are relative. If you started complaining, then people in Siberia will start laughing. We all have our pain, and we don't have to justify it across all of humanity -- else, nobody in first world countries should ever complain.

I grew up in the Northeastern US, snowy winters and all that. But its strange, even when I lived in sunny Southern California and it was 80 degrees and clear in December I'd still feel a little depressed and would sort of hibernate in the winter time. It was frustrating, because I knew damn well that it was beautiful and sunny outside and I shouldn't feel this way but I did.

Something inside of me is just biologically hardwired to know when its winter and that I should be hunkered down inside when it comes around. It wasn't nearly as big a problem in SoCal but it was still there. My guess is that my generations of northern-dwelling ancestors developed a genetic predisposition towards conserving energy in the winter but I'm no expert...

Try moving to New England from San Francisco.

Part of the difference is that you don't realize it's winter in San Francisco. New England winters make you very aware that it is in fact winter, and thus very legitimate about how you feel during said winter (crappy, lethargic, cold).

It also makes you supremely appreciative of life, spring, summer, and the fall that precedes it. I truly believe living in a place with seasons has made me a better, more self-aware person.

I have no doubt that SAD can strike you anywhere, but seriously, I highly recommend moving somewhere with a real winter. It will harden you and give you an invaluable perspective, and surely SAD will not strike you again in California.

I'm from the UK, and while I wasn't particularly aware of SAD for many years, it's clear it affected me to varying extents each winter. Moving to San Francisco definitely lessened the impact, but it isn't completely gone; though it probably helps a little that due to the long, tiresome summers here I actually like the refreshing cold snap we're in right now.

It would be. In fact, if you suffered from seasonal depression you would probably love the first winter in SF! However after a few years you'd adjust and that would be your new low and you'd be back to square 1.

This isn't complaining about the weather though, SAD doesn't care whether the weather is fine for 8 or 9 or 10 months of the year, and it's two middling ones at the end, it'll kick your arse when sunlight is taken away.

Typical response from someone who doesn't understand any form of mental illness as they have been blessed to not suffer from it. Try some empathy.

I suffer from SAD. I didn't know it for years too.

It was just that I ran into my dark phases, but had no actual clue how, or why.

It was my psychologist, who asked the pertinent question years ago: Is there some sort of pattern, or rhythm to this ordeal?

Well, no shit Sherlock! It always seems to happen betwen October and March.

He recommended a light and I got myself a Philips Energy Light, like 5 years ago and it makes huge difference.

I still feel shitty, during most of late Autumn and early spring. But half an hour under the lamp, sipping green tea and usually reading whatever made life so much better.

In addition: I'll head off for a month in Asia in January. That helps a lot too.

Lack of light can seriously affect some people.

This may not be a solution if you suffer from depression.

Get help! If you suffer from depression. Really! I mean it! It can kill you!

But for me, 30 minutes a day, under the light makes a world of a difference.

> He recommended a light and I got myself a Philips Energy Light

I had to look that one up and felt reminded of my internship in a psychiatric hospital where I was mostly stationed in the psychotherapy center. By far the most common problem the patients had was depression. We had a huge light panel in a dedicated room and would recommend patients just sit in front of it. I thought it was amazing how much of a difference half an our of light bath made. The staff were using it, too! This was of course in Germany where, except for a few short summer months, it's always dark and gloomy.

> Asia in January

When I first started traveling for business, this is what cured me as well. I always try to get in a few days extra in the Philippines when it's winter in the EU :)

It took me a while to. Living in Sweden it was hard in the winters. I didn't mind the cold (layer layer layer) or the snow (quite fun) but the darkness was killing me.

Somebody I know recommended a quick tanning session (5-10 mins) on lowest setting once every two weeks and it made a huge difference. I know tanning is bad and all that, but so is being depressed.

Now I live in Miami with plenty of light and no such issues, way more productive.

Just my 2c

I have a somewhat opposite problem; I can't work at all during the summer. I can't deal with heat well and can barely think straight if I get even slightly too warm. This summer in the UK was unbearable in my new flat, which appears to have been designed as the most effective greenhouse in the world.

I always look forward to autumn and winter. I get to wear clothes I like, nobody's outside as they're all whinging about the rain, and I feel a sort of melancholy bliss when I'm sat indoors whilst it's raining. It's one of the main reasons why I still live in Wales rather than somewhere like SF.

I'm exactly the same. Back in southern Brazil, where it's "summer" during most of the year except for a few occasional weeks of ridiculously cold weather - the temperatures drops then rises again very sharply - during the "winter", I felt physically ill most of the time. The actual summer, which goes from December to April, was unbearable - imagine months straight of very warm (100F+) and extremely humid weather, with torrid sunshine during quite long days. My wife has the same problem and so does my father-in-law, for whom the problem is so critical that heat might be fatal to him.

Now I live in Seattle and it's much more bearable. The summer is still kinda too warm for my taste, but at least it's much shorter than it is in Brazil. Besides, night are cool.

I have a really hard time understanding people that enjoy warm weather. I just can't relate to it at all, can't put myself into their shoes. Heat makes me ill, grumpy, depressed.

I love cold weather. It makes me feel alive. My productivity goes through the roof when it's cold. I actually like the sensation of really cold weather on my skin. Sometimes its 32F outside and I go out with a T-shirt just to feel it on my skin. My wife and I open the windows when it's cold outside. And I can't understand how people don't enjoy it. Maybe we have really odd physiologies?

I agree. Autumn and Winter in the UK are beautiful and I share that same melancholy bliss. I think my ideal living/working conditions are probably: hot beverage, crackling fire, rain outside, jazz playing in the background.

If only I had a fireplace; one of the main things I really miss whilst living in a flat. And jazz + rain is a superb combination, although I've found that discovering good jazz is one of the most difficult tasks I've ever attempted; just when you think you're on to something, BAM! Improvised trombone.

Same here. My brain just works a lot better when it's cold. There's a purity to the winter which makes life so much simpler and, yes, even harsher—austerity can be a relief.

(Maybe something to do with growing up in Vermont?)

I'm the same, though I have definitely adjusted to warmer temperatures over nearly 4 years of living in California, and the general elevation in mood from the sunlight exposure (and everyone else's elevated mood too) makes up for the heat in many ways.

Having said that, there's nothing quite like the smell of wet winter coats gently steaming over an Aga, is there?

Hehe, totally hear that. You remind me of these hilarious tweets: https://twitter.com/SoVeryBritish/

My partner follows that; it's quite hard to tell the difference between that account and most people over here though. We're oddly predictable complainers!


Awnings are perfect for this problem. In a pinch, Aluminium foil works as well.

Many comments here are confusing issues:

- It's not about relative winter temperatures - It's not about length of daylight hours during winter - It's not about what your experience is with any of the above if you don't have the disposition to begin with

He's saying "If you have this pre-disposition/afflliction plan for it accordingly before it's too late (dark skies are here) That includes a) artificial interior lighting b) working 30 minutes outside into your routine somehow and c) having an escape plan that includes a week in the sun somewhere in your winter timeframe.

As a side note I have lived in many places including Boston and the Bay Area. The most depressed I ever felt was during El Nino driven winters in the Bay Area. I realized I would never make it a year in Seattle. Having said that, there were only 2 or 3 of those during my 10+ years there and I've never felt anything like seasonal depression. My wife though did suffer from it when we moved to Boston (and we ultimately left because of it)

Obligatory mental health comment:

Depression is very real, as is SAD. The article has some great suggestions on how to alleviate symptoms. However - as hackers all to often we get stuck in a 'I can hack it, I can fix it' mentality - even when it comes to our own brains.

Sometimes it's just 'the blues'. Often you can 'fix' it. But sometimes you can't.

If you are suffering and nothing you do seems to fix it - please - please - see a doctor. This isn't always something you can fix on your own. We can't afford to lose another hacker - not even you.

On a side tangent resulting in similar (edited: milder) symptoms, for decades I've noticed the typical westerner calendar is extremely lopsided. June thru December is one holiday per month if not more, where you can take a vacation and not stress about whats going on back at work, in comparison the other half of the year January thru June has ... basically no time off. Oh you can take a vacation day, you'll just have two days of junk in your inbox tomorrow, and that makes stress worse not better.

I get slightly depressed in January for a couple weeks with the realization that my next day off is pretty much Memorial Day weekend at the end of May. That's a long time to go without a break, especially after spending the second half of the year never working more than about 3 weeks without yet another holiday.

That's why I don't think the articles advice to go on a vacation is useful. WRT stress reduction all you'll end up with when taking a vacation in the first half of the year is getting paged/called by everyone still at work and you'll have an overflowing inbox. In comparison, during the other half of the year you don't even need to spend vacation days to get long weekends and slow work weeks. 90% of the company takes friday after thanksgiving off, I may as well take it off too.

So to reiterate one last time I'm talking about something that happens at the same time of year with vaguely similar symptoms for a completely different reason (or maybe not?) than the discussion of low D3 vitamins or whatever... although I'm sure the lack of holidays does not help those suffering from medical issues.

What about Good Friday (and the gov't holiday of Easter Monday if you're in that field)? Anyhow, to counter this we get a day in February called "Family Day" here in Ontario - one of the much-maligned Ontario Liberal Party's better ideas.

I don't work in a Catholic country so no federal holiday. For the operations people, Easter Sunday isn't even recognized as an official company holiday, much less Good Friday or Ash Wednesday.

There is Valentines day which if you're hetronormative and a girl must be a lot of fun, but for us guys its pretty much just an expensive stressful (or lonely?) PITA. I could do without it, happily.

Arbor day doesn't cut it either. Yo dude its Arbor Day lets go out and get drunk! Uh yeah you go do that and hug a tree for me.

Bah, when you said "Westerner", I assumed you were an Albertan. Dumb Canadian moment. I never realized that Americans don't get Good Friday off like we do in Canada.

I was thinking more like I have no idea what the holiday calendar looks like in China or India. Its a big world, some culture out there probably works opposite the west, tirelessly in the second half of the year and the first half of the year is full of their ethnic festivals.

Living in northern Germany (read Hamburg) I can only agree.

That last winter here was very difficult for me, too. Especially the long, grey and dark weeks, without so much than a glimpse of sunshine.

Not very good for me. What has helped me, at least a little bit, was, that I started dancing again. Having someone else, who's "training" depends on you makes it less likely, that you do not go. And dancing is quite actually really strenuous, if done right and a lot of fun.

I learned to listen to my body, learned to feel my body better and now have at least two days a week, when I come home relaxed, lucky-exhausted.

But not everything is good. I feel, that "winter is coming". I can feel the energy withdrawing to a place deep inside me. I feel like curling up and preparing for hibernation. But that is not possible. I have to do my best at work everyday. So hibernating is not an option ;-)

So I wish all of you out there well. Be it SAD or be it "just" the "winter blues" be well and take care of yourself.

To all those who thought that this was about latitude, read the above post again. ... long, grey and dark weeks...

The experience of people living in coastal cities is often a lot worse than the experience of lucky northerners living in Calgary, Edmonton or Fort McMurray. Those northerners can put on their parkas and go outside at lunchtime to enjoy the glorious sunshine even though it is 35 below zero. And I didn't mention Celsius or Fahrenheit because at those low temperatures it makes little difference.

I know of what I speak, having lived in Calgary where I followed a daily lunchtime ritual of going outside, starting the car engine and driving around for 30 minutes to warm it up. If I had not done that, I would have been unable to start the engine at the end of the workday. Not everyone has the luxury of an electric outlet in the parking lot at their workplace.

And I have also worked in London England, not that far from the same North Sea that is next to Hamburg. And there I experienced the endless weeks of overcast skies with no sunshine whatsoever and a succession of rain and drizzle. While I haven't lived in SF, I have been there several times in the winter and noticed that every day seems to start out overcast with thick fog and cloud overhead. That would shorten the day enough to give anyone S.A.D.

> So hibernating is not an option

I've been complaining about this lately. I would love to just wake up in March, walking out, blinking, into the sunshine.

Maybe I'll try one of those lights, that looks like a good idea.

Just finished commenting on the post about the failure of science. Can't help but comment here on a post about SAD. And I am by no means making light of things. I myself struggled with SAD while in college for a few years. It's no fun at all.

That said, you know how I get through winter now? I live a lifestyle that is surprisingly similar to how my Northern European ancestors would have. And a big part of that is diet:

1. Seafood 2. Pastured animal meat/fat

Along with being a software developer, I am also a hog breeder. If you raise animals, but especially hogs, on open pasture exposed to the sun, their lard becomes saturated in trace elements like vitamin D3 [1].

1: http://www.vitamindwiki.com/%22Free+range%22+lard+has+500+IU...

I've found myself in a similar position, in the past (although not for a few years). SAD is a real thing, and it has actual physical consequences.

I remember when I had it I would change my workout routine (read: go from running daily to running weekly... Maybe... Okay once a month). Which would only further affect me as I experienced the effects of reduced exercise, and those endorphins were seriously missed.

Definitely following some of the advice in the article helps, although I never did any supplements. I've beaten it by surrounding myself with a fun group of people both professionally and personally, and I keep my eye on the prize (whatever project I'm doing for work). Putting my head down and working hard is definitely a great antidote for me, although I know if might not work for everyone (it might make things worse!). I found that with a specific professional goal in mind I could get up easier, go to the gym easier, go to the office earlier, and get through my projects more efficiently.

Make a routine and keep on pushing!

Check your D3 levels

About 5 years ago, my doctor randomly tested me for Vitamin D levels. My level was about 20 ng/ml where you should be at least 30 ng/ml and likely closer to 40 ng/ml.

My doctor recommended that I start taking 1,000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 per day which I did. For fun I looked up the problems that can be caused by having insufficient Vitamin D:


Heart disease, cognitive impairment, asthma, cancer, etc. Yeah - cancer. In addition, a Vitamin D deficiency can actually cause back pain. That was my only major symptom. It's been 5 years and I haven't had a back pain episode since I started taking Vitamin D. Anecdotal, of course. But my levels are where they should be now and I just take one tiny Vitamin D3 pill per day.

Well, Web MD tells me I probably have cancer pretty often. In some places you can't even buy household goods, eat at a restaurant, or fill your car up with gas without warnings that you're probably getting cancer right that very minute.

Officially scared. Booking blood work appointment now...

Does anyone have experience with either Philips goLITE [1] or Wake-Up light [2]? I wonder which of these will be more effective (blue vs warm yellow).

Alternatively, has anyone managed to build such a device at home? AFAIK 470 nm wavelength LEDs are the way to go but getting 10k lux out of the grid..

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Philips-goLITE-BLU-Therapy-Device/dp/B...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Philips-HF3520-Wake-Up-Colored-Simulat...

The phrase "10,000 lux" is making me twitch. Lights emit lumens, lux is lumens per square meter. In other words, lumens is the measure of how bright a light is, and lux is the measure of how well a room is illuminated.

So what these devices are claiming is that if you use them as prescribed (sitting 18-24 inches away) you (specifically, your face) will be illuminated at 10,000 lux. If they're just illuminating a little 30 cm square, they could be doing it with as little as 900 lumens of light.

To achieve 10,000 lux, you need 10,000 lumens per meter of area you are trying to light. The easiest way to do this is probably to 4 foot long 40 watt fluorescent bulbs. You can buy 4-bulb fixtures, which will emit a combined 12,000 lumens and consume a total of 160 watts. Probably cost you about $50, bulbs and fixture. So for a to light a 10 square meter room, you need 10 4-bulb fixtures, 1600 watts, and $500.

I have the Philips goLITE, and highly recommend it. The blue wavelength makes a noticeable difference. It runs off of a rechargeable battery, which is very handy if you move around the house/office in the morning. It's also small enough to use as a travel alarm clock, and I've found using it makes it much easier to shift time zones.

Thank you.

How well does it fit into your morning routine? Do you have to stare straight to the goLITE right after waking up or would it work just by keeping it next to the breakfast table or next to the bed?

You don't need to stare at it - I usually keep off to the side of whatever I'm doing. As long as you can see it in your peripheral vision, it works. I usually set mine for 60 minutes, and it shuts off automatically.

I purchased the Lightphoria 10,000 Lux light and used it last winter for the first time (I'm in my 50s). It had a slight, but noticeable effect on my mood. I pointed it at the ceiling for 30 minutes while I got dressed in the morning. It definitely seemed to help. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004JF3G08

Dedicated therapy lights are expensive. Big halogen work lights are cheap, and brutally bright.


I have used that exact Wake-Up light model for about a year. It has had a marginal effect, in that I wake "naturally" (before the sound alarm goes off) about 1 night in 20. As a simple source of bright light, it performs as you would expect -- with the extra benefit that my tired morning self does not have to bother with turning it on.

I would rank its usefulness above 0, but below a consistent bed time, and so far, below vitamin D (3250 IU in the morning).

Not only are more people depressed, but more actually die during the winter too:


Does taking vitamin D3 supplements really work for the OP? There have been a number of HN posts about how the vitamin fad started by Linus Pauling has not been backed up scientifically, such as this one:


but maybe there is more to it when it comes to SAD...

OP here. I'll give a qualified yes.

It's hard to actually know which action I take has the most effect. Vitamin D, bright lights, exercise all play a role. I've found it's important to try everything and hope for the best.

If I were to pick just one thing to do though, it would be the bright lights in the morning. I know for sure that those work. Not only for myself, but for many other people who have given it a try.

Yes, fixing your Vitamin D level gives a very effective boost, however it is absolutely not harmless to consume too much vit D as the article implies. More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypervitaminosis_D

Hypervitaminosis D is incredibly rare. Taking 1000 IU per day ought to be harmless for literally everyone. Even 10,000 IU per day is WAY below toxicity.

You are missing the point. Above a certain level, the negative side effects start out weighing the positive affects. So just because something is not close to toxicity, does not mean it is actually having a net benefit on your health. With vitamins, take the recommended dosage, or preferably slightly less, as it is likely you are getting at least something from your diet, not matter how poor. Anything above that is likely to start having negative effects that start to outweigh any benefits. Most adults get sufficient vitamins and minerals from their diet, even a poor western diet. Vitamin D however, is the exception if you don't get enough sun.

I'm not talking about vitamins in general; I'm talking about vitamin D and how embarrassingly low the U.S. RDA is.

There are a great many Americans who would see immense benefit by taking (say) 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. And I feel pretty confident there are no people for whom an extra 2,000 IU would be negative.

Supplementing vitamin D is recommended by a few calm agencies and is reasonably sensible. Especially if you don't get much sun. UK children under 5 are recommended to take a multivitamin of A, C and D.

We're at the frustrating stage of having credible methods of action, but weak evidence for efficacy, for some vitamin interventions.


> The number of trials and outcomes reported are too limited, and in general are of low quality, to draw conclusions on the usefulness and safety of this intervention as a part of routine antenatal care. Further rigorous randomised trials are required to evaluate the role of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy.

You could search Pubmed for human experiments:


I get 5 hits; 2 are positive results and 3 are mixed/non-significant (which is probably explained by their small sizes).

For further information about vitamin D, I always recommend one particular episode [1] of the TWiT Security Now podcast where the host Steve Gibson talks for about an hour on his research into the effects of vitamin D and how he thinks that taking it is important.

I can't vouch for the medical accuracy of what he is saying, but he does tend to research things pretty thoroughly before broadcasting them, and I generally trust his conclusions.


A multivitamin is not taking D3 supplements. Gwern has a short excerpt on the topic:


The OP is right that Vitamin D deficiency is common, and D3 supplementation is a good idea for almost everyone. It's super-easy, too; if you don't like taking it every day, you can actually take a big dose once a week because it's fat-soluble. (Vitamin D's fat-solubility means that there's a theoretical possibility of overdose, but in practice this almost never happens. You'd really have to go nuts with the dosage to be at risk.)

Last year, prior to beginning supplementation, I had my blood levels checked for Vitamin D (per the recommendation in Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Body). I was amazed to discover that my levels were at the low end of normal, despite a diet rich in Vitamin D and regular direct sunlight (including frequently wearing a "suntan shirt" to let in the necessary UV). (I live in Pasadena, which is sunny year-round.) After supplementing for a couple of months, a second blood test confirmed that my blood Vitamin D levels were in the ideal range.

vitamin C hyperdosing and vitamin D supplementation are entirely different topics.

Sunrise today: 7:29 AM, Sunset today: 5:46 PM. (In Montreal) Things are good now, but in a little while, it is going to set at 4PM. Goodbye sun. I recently got one of those sunrise alarm clock. Let's see if it helps.

Ottawa reporting in. Hell is about to come upon us, friend. Buckle down, I have a feeling this winter is going to be a rough one.

I live in Alaska - four+ feet of snow in the winter, 20 below or colder for months at a time, dark from 4pm to 9am, etc. Personally, winter sucks, and it keeps me inside even more than typical. It just causes problems (cars don't like the cold very much, among other things) and makes me miserable. I dread every day the temperature drops, and I'm not looking forward to snowfall.

The most depressing thing about this post:

> Buy some lights

> You want to get lights that are at least 5,000 lux and preferably 10,000 lux. I recommend checking out Biobrite – that’s your first stop with the Per3 and the Philips light products as secondary options. Anything that doesn’t explicitly say it is either 5,000 or 10,000 lux is not going to do the job of stimulating serotonin.





Wake the fuck up, as soon as the sun starts to peek out, and stay outside until you feel awake and full of life. Then go back to your rectangular cave and hide out. Until lunch time, when you go the fuck outside again. Wear a thermal t-shirt and shorts and run a mile. Then go back to your cave again. Before the sun sets, go outside once more and watch the sunset, preferably in a jog.

Serotonin my ass. You're feeling the pressure of human society weighing you down, and winter is a reminder of your own mortality. Go outside and look at a lake surrounded by leafless trees, sip some hot tea, and think about how beautiful it all is.

(and then remember and be thankful that you're not stuck in Florida, but maybe that's just me)

Skiing. (Or snowboarding. Or ice climbing. Or mountaineering. For those in milder climates: mountain biking) The take-home point is: get a great winter activity to look forward to.

I used to feel this way (depressed in winter), but not since I started snowboarding. I'm really looking forward to winter at the moment, having moved from the southern to northern hemisphere recently.

All of the suggestions in this thread are too expensive. A ski trip for me would require a car rental, lodging, ski rental, lift fees and such, easily over $1,000 for a couple over a weekend. The light products, too, seem too expensive. Are there not 10,000 lux bulbs I can buy and stick into a socket? I don't need a "device."

Skiing is expensive, I agree. But less so if you own the equipment. The same goes for a range of other activities.

Mountain biking is probably one of the best value-for-money winter sports I can think of in the UK (where I live) and NZ (where I'm from). One reasonably large expense up-front followed by low-cost or free access to various trails in various parks, and reasonably low equipment maintenance costs.

Hiking is another alternative. Though it's not really something to look forward to in winter specifically; and if you can't enjoy it in summer, you probably won't in winter. Slightly lower up-front costs (some microfleece clothes and a good waterproof coat and hiking boots) but even lower transport costs.

Of course both of those still come with a transport cost. If you need to avoid that as well, you should consider photography. I've found that since I've started developing some photography skills I'm never too sad about the climate- there's always something outside to try and capture nicely. And if you're able to throw in some hiking (or even walks in parks nearby) it becomes much nicer. The current season is especially fun in the UK where most of the trees (those that I've seen) are deciduous, unlike NZ.

In any case, you may have to put some effort into any of these things; I didn't really enjoy winter hiking to begin with, but I've learned to really enjoy it. And, to be clear: not begrudgingly. Very enthusiastically.

I would recommend a much lower dosage of Vitamin D3 than the extreme high dosage (5,000 IU) on that Amazon site. While it is important to maintain reasonable levels of D3, higher levels can cause a range of problems, from kidney stones to increased risk of heart problems due to the raised calcium levels in your blood. The Linus Pauling institute recommends 600 IU, just over 1/8th the dosage of that link. People overdose on Vitamins these days, and are simply unaware that large dosages of vitamins can do far more harm than good. A little is good so more is better is a logical fallacy, yet a lot of people think this way. So I applaud you for bringing this to people's attention, but please recommend safer Vitamin D3 levels.

It is worth pointing out that it depends on your age, your deficiency level, and whether you are pregnant. Here is a good article from the Mayo clinic:


Here is a link to 1,000 IU dosage:


You may want to opt for the 600 IU if you get some sun as it is. I live in Chicago, so no much sun for me in Winter time.

I live in Poland and I have the opposite; for me winter is a stimulant. I don't know whether this is some remnant genetic call to survive hard times or a fact that it casts a kind of sterile aura that helps me to flow, but I'm objectively more productive then.

Today's forecast for where I live is a low of -11 C and up to 20cm of snow. I couldn't be happier. The local ski-hills will open that much sooner! I actually feel a little bit sorry for those living in San Francisco. Summer goes away but you never get to enjoy real winter activities. If you're complaining about winter in SF, you should probably either move someplace warmer or someplace colder.

Really, all it takes to enjoy winter is finding a winter activity you can look forward to. If you live someplace without winter, perhaps you should pick a sport to engage in only during the winter. Hell, SF must have at least one curling rink.

He's not "complaining about winter". It's not the temperature; it's the (lack of) sunshine.

Your second paragraph is a good suggestion. Getting outside while there is daylight will help.

Summer goes away but you never get to enjoy real winter activities.

You should tell that to my skiing obsessed family. There are no fewer than 10 Ski resorts in the Tahoe Basin alone, much less all along the Sierras. And they are only a few hours away by car or train. Californians often espouse the opinion that we have "well behaved" snow, it stays in the mountains where it belongs :-)

But the point of getting out is always good. I try to take more walks in the winter months.

Tahoe is basically 4 hours from SF, and up to 8 if there is fresh snow, which rules out day trips for all but the most hard-core. It's not as bad as flat land out east, but it's certainly got nothing (including snow quality) on what is available in Utah / Colorado.

Where do you live, approximately, if you don't mind me asking?

Winter in North Dakota is interesting since you typically go to work and leave work in the dark. When you do go out during the day and drive somewhere, you typically wear sunglasses because the sunshine[1] off the snow makes it hard to drive otherwise. Unless the weather is poor (less often than you think), where you don't see the sun. The wind typically means you are not going to take any leisurely walks.

1) it is fairly sunny, but since the ground is covered in white stuff you don't get the heat absorption. Cloudy days feel less cold.

Reminded me of Ezra Pound's rewrite of Middle English Poem about summer:

Ancient Music - Ezra Pound

  Winter is icumen in,
  Lhude sing Goddamm,
  Raineth drop and staineth slop,
  And how the wind doth ramm!
  Sing: Goddamm.
  Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
  An ague hath my ham.
  Freezeth river, turneth liver,
  Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
  Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
  So 'gainst the winter's balm.
  Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
  Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

I grew up in Southern California, and feel like that might be part of why the two long grey winters in sf each year affect me worse than my friends.

I found that a good antidote to the second winter was making snowboarding a more serious hobby. It had been something I'd done a few times when I was younger, but it was too far away to do regularly.

Here in the bay area though, a weekend of sun, beer, adventure, exercise, and hottubbing are only 3 hours away. And it turns the winter into something to look forward to.

I had a similar experience moving from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas. The contrast was made even more interesting because many of the people I worked with when I moved out here originally came from northern climes, with a few coming from places where snowfall is measured in feet instead of inches. I have adapted to it, mainly because North Texas winters tend to be sunny and dry. I would still rather be back in South Florida, though. Winter was actually the best time to be outside there.

Winter isn't that bad in North Texas. At worst we'll have a ice or snow storm once every decade that will shut the area down for a day or two. It's a great time for exercising outdoors and catching up on sleep. My dog loves the weather change, makes for longer walks in a cooler clime.

Its not, but you are talking to someone for whom the dead of winter was a low 40 for a few nights prior to moving out here. The snow and ice I actually like, mainly because it is infrequent.

I'm the opposite of this, I long for summer to be over and love the coming of the Winter.

I hate heat (fortunately I live in the North of England so it's not that frequent) far more than I hate the cold or dark.

In winter time I burrow in and get far more done (plus nothing beats going cycling on a road bike in the country at night when it's -5C, crystal clear and you can see stars so close you could reach out and touch them).

I actually dread the Summer.

What is super bizarre is after I had some blood work done, the doctor said I was deficient in Vitamin D and I live in Southern California. He further continued, that we often are indoors most of the time, and even when we go outside we cover up and don't get much direct exposure.

Adding to the further craziness, I asked several of my friends of their vitamin d levels and they said they were deficient also.

Live in Newport Beach, same thing happens to me, sitting inside from sunup to sundown. The one time a month I go to the beach I'm always "How have I not been outside for this long? Why do I even live here?"

I was living in Colorado, which has 300 days of sunshine a year. But the same thing happened. It was cold in the winter, even if sunny. So whenever I was out in the sun, my skin was covered completely,

That's interesting. I just moved to Colorado a year and I definitely noticed an uptick in my mood. I still take a vitamin D supplement, but I'm finding I'm having a much more consistently higher mood in the winter months than I did in Iowa.

WRT "Wake-Up Light With Colored Sunrise Simulation, White" and other technological gadgets, I've a hypothesis that some people actually wake up at sunrise (like an anti-vampire I guess?) and other people do pure internal clock. Furthermore part of my hypothesis is there is a strong correlation between those types and likelihood of SAD-diagnosis.

There are implications beyond SAD, such as alarm clock design. For example I can completely decouple from light input and sleep thru bright sunlight on my face if I'm tired (or drunk or hungover as I occasionally was in my youth). In fact many a time in my youth on weekends I'd come home around sunrise and fall asleep no problemo. If I used an alarm clock that simulated sunrise, I suspect I'd come into work late very often. On the other hand for SAD sufferers is the experience literally like a lightswitch like the sun rises and you are like biologically forced to wake up? If so they'd do very well indeed with a techno-gadget like this.

As an avid skier, I have SAD but in reverse. Once the snow starts falling (as it did in Lake Tahoe this weekend) I start perking up.

I know somebody that is actually diagnosed with this and its a serious condition.

Am I the only person that thinks that having the acronymn SAD is actually counterproductive? I mean, kind of sounds like a bad joke right?

Can't agree more. As the days get shorter and the sky gets gloomy, my mood becomes gloomier. I've been aware of this for several years now. I noticed that when I was in college that I skipped more classes during winter and had the worst grades during winter quarter. Some of the things that work for me to keep myself motivated- Exercise, waking up and repeating to myself- "what do I need to achieve today?", eating healthy, turning the heater off sometimes and keep the house as bright as possible.

Awesome blogpost!

This is one of the reason I ski living in Boston. Granted I can't do it on a daily basis, but I get outside on the weekends and get some sunshine. I can notice the pickup.

I've experienced this too, not just in winter.

I live in Scotland, and the weather is mostly wet and damp (rain on ~2 out of 3 days of the year). This year we had a glorious summer. I got productive work done in a single month in June than the entire first 5 months of the year.

I think everyone is affected by seasons - in my case, I feel down during seasons change, mostly May and October. I feel awesome during winter, I love it, summer not so much since I hate hot and humid weather (UK is pretty great during summer IMO :-D).

I have the same problem, but this winter I decided to fight it and take a six week vacation to Thailand in the worst months. I hope this helps to fight the depression, because I've never tried to take a vacation that long in the middle of winter.

FYI, every single Vitamin D supplement I've seen is just olive oil in gel capsules. You can even see it in the imaged on the amazon product page he linked. I just cook with olive oil all the time -- stir frys, eggs, meats, etc....

> You can even see it in the imaged on the amazon product page he linked.

Olive oil is listed under "Other ingredients" on that bottle. I presume that means it's not the main ingredient.

According to http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/631?fg=&man=&lfacet=&... olive oil contains no vitamin D.

is just olive oil in gel capsules.

...additionally with Vitamin D in them.

Weed got me through last winter.

> how many days in a row did you go without getting at least half-an-hour of direct bright sunlight

One of my major life goals is maximizing this number. I'd get a good peeling burn if I let myself sit out in the sun like that.

I'd be OK with the winter... but winter means horrible TV programming. It's not yet March, so no Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad just ended. And Walking Dead will go on a short hiatus.

Someone should start an endless summer club. Get a group of people together and work for 6 months in San Francisco then go South (Buenos Aires or sth equivalent) when winter comes.

Does staring into two bright 24" monitors 8h per day help?

Unfortuneately, montitor light does not have much in common with Sunlight, and doesn't seem to have any positive effect.

Only 8h? :)

I wonder what causes it since the variations in sunlight are tiny in SF (shortest day = 9.5 hours) compared to for example Stockholm (shortest day = 6 hours).

Variations being comparatively small doesn't make them tiny.

Shortest day in SF is 9.5 hours. Longest day in SF is 14.75 hours.

That's a significant difference. In comparison to Stockholm (6/18.5) it doesn't appear significant - but it's in no way tiny.

Interesting post. If he's that affected, he should move to Los Angeles, where he'll get ~11.5 months of happiness and productivity per year.

Except for the ridiculous time of June gloom. For those not in LA, we get no sun from 8am-1pm mostly the entire month of June.

What ends up happening is I see most people sad in the mornings until 1pm. I used to make fun of those people when I realized I was one of them.

True, though we didn't seem to have it this year, not sure why. Also, the farther you get from the beach the thinner it gets.

Well I guess moving to Finland is out of the question for the author...

Would moving overseas help then? Winter in US is summer in downunder.

I just switch hemispheres... problem solved. :)

As a Scandinavian, it is surprising to read people from so far, far south complaining about SAD.

I've been in mid Europe for a while. The sun here in mid winter is like being clubbed in the face with a bat of sunlight. Simply wonderful.

You might want to consider to eat breakfast before a daylight lamp, it helped me and others.

If you guys have SAD problems in California, don't go to Sweden... (Ok, there is probably few reasons to go there even without SAD problems. :-) )

Edit: The difference might be that you don't notice how different you are in winter if you grew up in the north, like not noticing the air?

Pretty much everywhere in the San Francisco bay area is sunny year round, except San Francisco itself. So if you have seasonal affective disorder, you could always just live in the east or south bay during the winter months. As a bonus you'd save on rent.

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