Saturday, January 17, 2009

15 Tips for a S.A.D. Gardener

Seasonal Affective Disorder is more than just the winter time blues. In a nutshell, the lack of light during the fall and winter causes a decreased production in serotonin, which makes you more likely to be depressed, increases melatonin that makes you want to sleep more and also lowers your body temperature. (Which I now know is the reason my temperature had been 97° the past couple of months.) Research at the Mayo Clinic indicate that both males and females can be affected by this disorder and while females are more likely to have it, men seem to suffer more severly from it. All in all, it just makes you feel like crap. This is the first year I’ve had it in a long time and I’m happy to say I’m feeling much better these days.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way during these months, so I have a few tips to share with you, that may make you feel better. Some of you have a lot more winter left than I do and maybe you can benefit from what helped me. If you have or are suffering from S.A.D. I highly recommend that you click the link above and read more about it. I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know.

I think when we are at our lowest; our perception of our environment is completely different from what others around us see. We live in a world where we only see the early darkness and everything is brown and gray. It doesn’t have to be like that, but you have to work at it daily until it passes.


That being the case let’s get started.

1) Get motivated. If the weather will allow it, bundle up and go outside for a little while. If you can’t find a weed to pull or a section of lawn to rake, then just walk around the yard and see if there is something interesting to see. Maybe, you will notice that there is a little more color out there than you originally thought.


2) So it’s too cold outside? Maybe you are like Joy and it is -17° where you are. Bring the outside in. If you didn’t plan ahead, somewhere in your town is a grocery store that has a floral section in it. Buy some live plants! Go to Wal-mart, Lowes, and Home Depot… somewhere you are going to find tiny pots of garden to stick in your house.


3) Make sure your house is well lit. In the daytime, open all the blinds and curtains, let the light in. If you have a lot of cloudy days, then be extra certain to take advantage of the sun when it comes out. In the evening, light every dark corner with some light. Use those lamps you have sitting around, they’re for more than decoration you know. If you are concerned about the electric bill use 25 or 30 watt bulbs. Every place that is visible to you should have light and the rooms you are in most often, lots of it. It may be artificial but at least it’s light. Darkness is a vexation to the spirit.

4) Get up and watch the sunrise. Scout you out a place to see the sun come over the horizon. If you have to get in your car and drive a mile to get there, that’s fine too. You are motivated and out of the house. As the sun starts to peek at you, take time to think about all the things that you are blessed with and give thanks for having them in your life. Live with an attitude of gratitude.


5) During the winter months you aren’t digging, pushing wheel barrows and all that labor you normally do in the garden. You need to exercise, for your health and the endorphins. It makes you feel good; I need to practice what I preach on this one.


6) If you feel really bad, go see your doctor. What are you waiting for? Why be miserable when you don’t have to be. There is no shame in taking medication for a few weeks to help you get thru it. Your quality of life is being diminished and you don’t get those wasted days back, they are gone forever.

7) Stay warm, nobody likes to be cold. Wrapping up in cozy throws when you are reading or watching television gives you that snuggly feeling that everyone loves. We were born from warm cozy places, it’s what we know from gestation and it is one of the first sensations we experience.


8) Eat comfort foods that warm you from the inside out. Remember, your core temperature could be lower than usual and this will help warm you up. Drink hot cocoa with marshmallows and/or drink your favorite herbal tea. Pamper yourself, you deserve it.

9) Fill your home with beautiful shiny things that reflect light and enjoy the rainbows you create.


10) Call old friends; make all those phone calls you couldn’t make when you were busy in the garden this past growing season. I like to fill a tub with hot, hot water and soak in it for 40 or 45 minutes while I chat on the phone. If you are metaphysical in belief toss some salt in there and leach out those negative feelings while you are chatting to someone you care about.


11) Talk to God, whoever you consider him or her to be. Tell him how you are feeling, ask that you learn any lesson that you are suppose to get from the experience and ask for the strength to see it thru. There is a divine intelligence and legions of angels or spirit guides to help you. But, I personally don't believe they interfere with your free will unless you ask for their help.


12) Bake bread, cookies and cakes. Fill your house with scents that remind of you of childhood and the treats that you would soon receive. Whatever you make for yourself, double the recipe to share with a friend or neighbor. It feels good to give and I promise you, it will make their day.


13) Working in nature is a spiritual thing; I don’t care who you are or what your religion may be. When you aren’t gardening your soul is missing the experience, it has been in your blood, since creation. Think about those last two words… Prepare yourself to be more connected when you re-enter your garden in the spring. The Celestine Prophecy has been a favorite book of mine for several years, but I actually enjoyed the movie more. Take a night with a friend and watch it.

14) Get a hobby that involves bright colors, preferably with gardening as the subject matter. It distracts you from your woes and makes you focus on something else. Plus, you get that same sense of pride from the completed project that you feel when you finish that new flower bed. It’s even better if you are learning something new.


15) Last but not least is what I crudely refer to as “garden porn”. Those garden magazines and seed catalogs are a wonderful thing. You can live vicariously thru the photos, all the time planning new spring and summer projects.

Garden Porn

I realize this is a long post and if you are still reading, you are very dedicated or either suffering from S.A.D. yourself. Just remember, you may be unable to control the onset of the disorder, BUT you are in complete control of how you respond to it. Spring will be here before you know it, I have it on very good authority.


What? You are still here? Get off the computer and get motivated!


Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

JandR-- Wonderful post! I great, healthy perspective and suggests for staying in good spirits.


Only 62 more days until Spring

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

A great -- typo there.

Jamie and Randy said...

Thank you Cameron, I invested a little time in this post and I hope someone will benefit from what I learned. Typos? What Typos?
I pay not attetion to them just read over some of my pages. :-)--Randy

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is such a timely uplifting post Randy. Thanks so much for addressing this common malady with a positive conquering attitude.

I love the expression "darkness is a vexation to the spirit." I am always going around opening curtains. I hate to not have natural light coming into the house.

You have given me many things to think about this morning.

I do feel that being ouside in nature whether in the garden or otherwise does make connecting to your spirit much easier. It is sucha smooth transition from you to the spirit when surrounded by nature.

I hope you have many more "golden sky" moments. You deserve them all.

Speaking of skies. I looked up Fire Rainbows. I don't think I have ever seen one. I will now be looking forward to such an experience.

Jamie and Randy said...

If I can just make one suggestion in this post that makes someone feel better for a little while, then I have accomplished my goal. I am on a crusade to bring light to the darkness!;-)I hope you have a wonderful day!--Randy

Phillip said...

Great post Randy. Michael says he suffers from this too. Have you heard about those HappyLites? I saw them on Martha - they are supposed to help you feel better. I wanted to get one for Michael for his upcoming birthday but he told me not too because they are rather expensive. I think though that if it really serious, it might be a good investment (that is, if they work!). I actually kind of enjoy the downtime during the winter months but hey, I'm just weird.

Chandramouli S said...

That's great and so nice of you, Randy to help other Gardeners! So well put and explained. I'm the Winter Gardeners out their would be benefited out of this.

Wayne said...

I love how you combined those pics with your post! I do puzzles and plan summer mo-ho trips to keep me in good spirits.

jodi said...

Wise words indeed, guys. SAD is definitely a problem in the Great White North, and I use some of your tips to help me get through. It's amazing how we can help ourselves feel better with some basically easy tips. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Pam/Digging said...

These are good tips for daily living, Randy, but especially for anyone suffering from SAD. Austin's warm, sunny winter days give me a great excuse to stay busy outdoors. Ironically, I and other Austin gardeners have discussed getting SAD in summer, when it just feels too dang hot to go outside, let alone garden, and all one can do is wait for fall.

Jamie and Randy said...

According to the Mayo Clinic, those lights do work. I don’t know how much they are, I’m going to check into it.

Thank you so much! I really hope this helps. I found when you have things going on with your emotions, the more you understand about why they are happening, the better you respond to them. This is a physical reaction cause by the amount of light that enters your eye and it gets your internal clock confused. Not to mention it gets you chemical balances way off in the process. People need to know it’s not just them it is an elemental change that is happening in their body.
Thanks, Wayne. I think anything that keep your mind busy helps!

I actually had all the northern readers in my mind when I was writing this. If you think it will help someone you know then by all means pass it on. But, it only works if you can take the initiative to not lie down in the bed. You have to have to keep going even though you feel so tired you would much rather just take a nap. Unfortunately, I found I felt much worse after the nap than I did before I went to sleep.

SAD happens in all seasons and according to the Mayo Clinic Summer is a big one. Though the symptoms seem to slightly different. Poor appetite, anxiety, irritability and insomnia are all symptoms. With no gardening as an outlet for the extra energy enthusiasm, I can bet you these symptoms are elevated. Maybe it isn’t the heat draining everyone’s energy.

Frances said...

Hi Jamie and Randy, what a terrific mood lifter! You are so right about letting the weather and lack of light getting us down. Exercise is what helps me, and it needs to be outside too, doing something in the garden, anything. But if I couldn't get out, projects is the name of the game, along with the telephone, I laugh out loud at the one you showed, along with the cover of the men's exercise mag. Is that what you guys look like? :-) Really, great post for so many are affected!

Jamie and Randy said...

Alas, Frances, my six pack is hidden under a pot belly and the remainder of my body has been deformed by gravity and age. And since I can't see it, I'm not really sure when my butt decided to leave... maybe it's in my thighs somewhere...:-) But, Jamie on the other hand is 16 years younger than me and is well on his way to looking like the picture.:-)

perennialgardener said...

Wonderful tips today! I'm a visual person so thanks for including the photos! :)

Roses and Lilacs said...

If you live in the northern tier of states, you are bound to suffer from it to some degree. Fortunately most people continue with their lives without many problems. Your ideas are excellent ways to compensate and improve spirits.

Jamie and Randy said...

I'm particularly fond of the Buddha photo. I think it says it all. :-)

I hope I don't get so into my indoor hobbies that I don't want to go outside!--Randy

Gail said...

Randy and Jamie,

A very helpful post! Uplifting and right on the money!
Like millions of other folks I headed back to the gym and I feel so much better; I don't like working out but I like how it makes me feel...Thank you for a good and helpful read! gail

Jan said...

Good advice. I have started opening the mini blinds at work and it does seem to help.

Always Growing

GardenJoy4Me said...

OK guys .. You both have me in AWE here because I never thought in a million years anyone that far south could ever suffer from SAD !!! ..
All of your remedies are truly amazing yet every day practical .. The only thing I didn't see with this is our steadfast crutch .. extra vitamin D (about 1000 mgs).. but your "commandment" of getting out side (you guys have sun down there, more than we do!) .. direct contact with the sun for at least 15 minutes on skin, tops up the D factor.
I read the Celestine Prophecy .. didn't see the movie ? LOL .. Another book that puts things in perspective is "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking .. it is NOT heavy reading at all and it is amazing !
I LOVE "garden porn" .. but do you think I could find any yesterday while we were out ? .. I have tons of it but I want new magazines to add to my collection .
I think if you go back to my answer for your comments you may laugh .. I mentioned "IT" that shall not be mentioned .. we are on the same wave length ? : )
OK .. I droned on here long enough are you snoring yet ??
Great post but VERY surprising coming from your end of North America !!! : )
PS .. Eating/drinking comfort foods should be balanced out by the "beast" shouldn't it ?
Read my answer to you to know what the beast is.

GardenJoy4Me said...

It is -21 HERE, this morning.
I really enjoyed all those pictures too (especially the wacky garden one that made me feel dizzy !!) hahaha

Jamie and Randy said...

Every bit helps. It's all about the amount of light entering your eyes.

I'm glad you enJOYed the post. :-) Yes, even down here we can suffer. We can go for a couple of weeks at the time and never see the sun. Plus the days are so much shorter. I really need to visit a beast myself. My weight is really starting to get out of control.:-(

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Hi J&R! I just got around to reading this wonderful post;) I'm only 4 days late:( Oh well, glad I came just the same! I thought you did a really nice job of researching the issues, and I liked your humor along the way:) Do you remember I wrote about SAD and used my bluebird photos to add to the message? I mentioned light boxes...and linked to the Mayo clinic. I myself have a HappyLight, by Verilux...I noticed Philip asked about that. Tell him it does help me a LOT. By the way, how about a little 'love link' to my former post on SAD? Only kidding--(kinda;)) Jan

Jamie and Randy said...

I certainly do remember your post! It was what originally attracted me to your blog. Your post is much more medically informative than mine; all I have to go on is Google and my experiences in past winters. My best friend uses one of the light boxes and says she benefits from it as well. SAD seems to be a common topic right now as I’ve noticed several bloggers posting about it. With the combine efforts of everyone someone, somewhere has to benefit from the information that is being posted. If you Google Seasonal Affective Disorder, along with the link I/you used, there is also another Mayo Clinic link about Light Therapy. They don’t mention any medical proof it works, but it sounds perfectly logical to me.--Randy