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.
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.
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).
Having said that, sometimes we do get plenty snow here and then our ample supply of hills is quite handy:
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.
No ad hominem was intended, it was more of a critique of the general idea of forming rebuttals that consist of sarcastic remarks.
A winter depression in any city is no vacation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I've worked from SF October to January, and let me tell you that biking around town in a t-shirt is not winter.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 just really hate wearing jackets in the city and prefer to endure than to wear one.
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...
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.
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.
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 :)
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 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.
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?
(Maybe something to do with growing up in Vermont?)
Having said that, there's nothing quite like the smell of wet winter coats gently steaming over an Aga, is there?
Awnings are perfect for this problem. In a pinch, Aluminium foil works as well.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 .
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!
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.
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..
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.
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?
I would rank its usefulness above 0, but below a consistent bed time, and so far, below vitamin D (3250 IU in the morning).
but maybe there is more to it when it comes to SAD...
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.
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.
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.
I get 5 hits; 2 are positive results and 3 are mixed/non-significant (which is probably explained by their small sizes).
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.
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.
> 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your second paragraph is a good suggestion. Getting outside while there is daylight will help.
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.
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.
Ancient Music - Ezra Pound
Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
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 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 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.
Adding to the further craziness, I asked several of my friends of their vitamin d levels and they said they were deficient also.
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.
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?
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.
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.
...additionally with Vitamin D in them.
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.
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.
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.
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?