Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feeling Blue?

"You're looking awfully blue today.
Cheer up! Spring is just around the corner!"

(Male & Female Bluebirds) Photo by Jan Doble, 12/2008

It's not uncommon to hear people talk about feeling SAD around this time of year. Sometimes, it can be related to life events, and other times, chemical imbalances. The SAD I'm talking about is due to lack of light...which does produce a chemical imbalance in some people's mine, for instance!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a form of depression that starts anytime from the late fall to early winter, and usually begins to subside by early spring, as the days become longer. As the sun begins to shine for longer periods of time, many people with S.A.D. notice a desire to get outside more, which leads to taking walks, and other outdoor activities such as gardening. Seasonal Affective Disorder appears to vary according to latitude, age and sex. At higher latitudes (farther North), there are more cases of seasonal affective disorder. Since sunlight decreases with higher latitude, the length of day appears to be a factor. It also tends to be colder in the winter, with harsher conditions and storms, as you travel farther North. (Psychology Information Online).

(2 Male Bluebirds) Photo by Jan Doble, 12/2008
According to the Mayo Clinic (online), symptoms of S.A.D. may include: Depression, Hopelessness, Anxiety, Loss of energy, Social withdrawal, Oversleeping, Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, Weight gain, and Difficulty concentrating and processing information.

If you think you may be suffering from S.A.D., it is a good idea to first check with your doctor for a complete exam and evaluation. You may be given suggestions to follow, such as the use of a light-box. From personal experience, I cannot say enough good things about light therapy. Since using one this year, I have noticed a huge improvement in my mood, as compared to last fall and winter, when I was not using one. Please be aware, however, that in some individuals, use of a light box can create mania and is not recommended for everyone. For some individuals, more extensive treatment (such as antidepressant medication) may be necessary, so be sure to talk to your doctor prior to purchasing a light therapy box.

(3 Male Bluebirds) Photo by Jan Doble, 12/2008

Of course, like anything, there are many brands to select from. I am not in a position to promote any particular light box, however, it is important to choose a Full Spectrum system, (about 10,000 Lux) and an approved box which delivers no UV rays. Other features and factors to consider in a light therapy box can be found at this link: Choosing a Light Therapy Box

I don't know of any studies that look at S.A.D. in gardeners, specifically--but it makes sense to me that there could be a correlation. I've noticed several gardening blogs where the blogger has discussed his or her struggle with S.A.D. Gardeners usually love to be outdoors, and when it's cold and dark, the garden can't be tended to. Most gardeners crave the sun as much as the plants in their gardens!

If you are feeling blue, remember, you are in good company. There is something that others are doing to help themselves, and you can too!

(1 Female & 3 Male Bluebirds) Photo by Jan Doble, 12/2008
*S.A.D. can also effect people in the spring and/or summer. For further information about both forms, read the information provided by the Mayo Clinic (link provided, above) or, do a google search for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

--Today I'm thankful for...light!


  1. Lovely bluebirds Jan, fantastic. They look so happy at your bird bath! The post is very helpful and supportive! Take care and keep warm...gail

  2. Hey Jan !
    Those are such sweet little birds .. I would love to see one in real life some time : )
    I really think there is a correlation with SAD and gardeners in particular .. we appreciate life and light so much when we get cut off (in the far north ? haha) it affects us quite profoundly. I considered a light box.. but for now I love these salt lamps !

  3. Very informative, great photos. Thanks for the comment, I just signed up for Blotanical, not sure how it works. Help? And I read don't pick!

  4. Great post! Working in an office for over 32 years, there were some really difficult winters. I was fortunate in that SAD was taken seriously at the software company where I worked. I was a senior employee, manager, etc., so I was fortunate to always have a window office. That helped.

    I'm so glad to be outdoors most of the time... although it's rainy with severe weather and tornado watches right now.


  5. Your post is very timely as the northern hemisphere nears its winter solstice and longs for more daylight hours. It's funny how doctors and scientists think that providing a name for a disorder solves everything. Maybe it does for the pharmaceutical companies. Is there a pill for it yet, I wonder? I'll stick to getting as much light as possible and maybe indulging in some aromatherapy, which can also be mood-altering but without any adverse side effects. I love your birds conversing with each other. They're a cheerful sight anytime.

  6. Your blue birds are so beautiful. I put up a bluebird house last summer so I am hoping some will come to live.They are not staying around my house. I am so glad that SAD is being acknowledged now and that they are coming up with help for it.

  7. I love your bluebird photos - just gorgeous! I know many people who struggle with SAD here in the winter months. Thanks for a very informative post!

  8. I have never seen birds that look like that - those pix are beautiful. I have heard that the lamps are very helpful for treatment of SAD.

  9. That is such a interesting thought...about SAD and gardeners. I think you may have something there. mMny gardens love to be outside. they crave itas you say.
    Your bluebirds made me happy, too!
    Best regards,

  10. Hi, Jan--What an informative post. I've been lucky in that I don't think I'm affected by SAD--on the other hand, we spend a lot of time in Arizona and I DO know the sun makes me feel good. Your bluebirds were the perfect illustration.

  11. Your bluebirds sure are sad today since they are so blue:) Whenever I think of SAD I think of Men in Trees and the police woman with her florescent lights she is always sitting in front of for therapy. Of course she is in Alaska and would truly need light therapy there I guess.

  12. Good morning Jan, great and informative post just the way I like them and then the bird...just amazing. I don't know how you do it but they are brilliant photos, how do you keep them still :-)
    Have a lovely weekend/ Tyra
    Blooming Friday – blomming fredag i Tyras Trädgård

  13. Your birdbath seems to satiate the Bluebirds and they look sweet. Are they localites? Do they always visit your birdbath?

  14. Excellent post and I love the pic of the bluebirds. In my country The Netherlands 10 % of the population suffers from SAD, myself included.

  15. I absolutely love your photographs. You're a very talented photography. (And your writings are great also!)

  16. Hello, Thanks for 2 Day

    Thank you for becoming a 'follower' of PICTURES JUST PICTURES. I'm really glad you like it.

    I voted for 'Can't Wait for Snow' on your poll. Not that we have any hope for it on the South Coast of England. It's just that I wish . . .

    About SAD. I'm the opposite. I love autumn and winter. The summer makes me wilt.

    I never see bluebirds in real life. Your photos are delightful.



  17. I've heard of it and wondered from time to time how much it affects me (living in northern Illinois). I imagine it does affect us to some degree but most of us can function normally.

    I loved seeing your blue birds. I've never had any so I envy you. Is that a heated birdbath?

  18. I've wondered if the full-spectrum lights work, I've thought of purchasing one. Glad you wrote on this topic and gave your recommendation. By the way, love your photos and the comical caption!

  19. Dear Jan ~ you turned many lights 'on' with this timely post. I think many suffer some degree of S.A.D. ... I know, I do and crave winter daylight. But Dec 22 is near ... yea ... and why I am thankful for the Winter Solstice!

  20. What an incredibly informative post Jan. The bluebird photos are lovely.

  21. Hi Everyone! Please forgive my lateness in responding to you all! I'll be back here this weekend but in the meantime just wanted to thank you for leaving such wonderful comments and questions. I'm trying to figure out how to add another 24 hrs. to a typical day. There just don't seem to be enough of them

  22. Hi Jan, love the bluebird photos (and that fat squirrel in your other post!). Are the bluebirds at your home all year long? I've been looking and waiting for the American Goldfinches to show up here but no luck yet. Great post.

  23. What beautiful photographs! Thank you for sharing! (I don't get here often enough, either!) :-)

  24. Hi Gail, Joy, Darla, Cameron: Glad you found this informative! That was the purpose, just to bring up the subject. Many people don't realize that lack of light may be the reason they're feeling low.
    Hi Walk2Write: S.A.D. is just one of many forms of depression in people, so it simply is a classification for people to rule out and recognize whether their low mood could be related to lack of light. Glad you liked the bluebirds!
    Hocking Hills, Blossom, Bonnie, Phillip, Cosmo, Tina: Yes, it's been recognized for some time now that lack of light is a factor contributing to depression in some people, and it's important for folks to be aware of it:) The bluebirds make me smile too:)
    Tyra, Chandramouli: The bluebirds have come to my yard for the last 3 winters, and just seem to hang out here all winter long! To me, it's a bright spot in the season! And they are drawn to the water provided in the birdbath.
    Yolanda Elizabet: Depending on which country you live in, the statistics vary, but I read where some places have up to 20% of the population effected. I hope you are able to get relief this winter:) Remembering & hanging on to the fact that there is 'light at the end of the tunnel--I mean winter'--is also something that can give us some amount of hope.
    Shady: Thanks for the compliment; the birds do all the work--I just snap the button on the camera. No talent is necessary:)
    Lucy: Having snow is a treat for me but I'm always glad to see it go! Sorry to hear you suffer from the spring/summer form of S.A.D. and I hope you are able to find a way to get some relief;)
    Roses&Lilacs: There are so many variations and degrees of S.A.D. in the population that it's simply helpful to be aware that it's not uncommon to be sensitive to the lack of sunlight.
    I do have a heated birdbath, and honestly, I think that's what draws them to my yard!
    SpookyDragonfly: The light might not work for everyone, since we all react differently to just about everything:) But it's worth looking into if you feel you're sensitive to lack of light. The caption just seemed appropos for this topic!
    Joey: If you can manage without light until winter solstice then you'll be so happy when it arrives! But that still won't give the light you so crave--that's why the light box could be helpful until spring. Everyone has to decide for him/herself:)
    PG: I'm glad you found this helpful, and happy you enjoyed the bluebirds!

  25. Hi Jean: The bluebirds have come only when it begins to get cold and I put out the heated birdbath. They feast on hulled sunflower seeds and fresh water all winter long! I am fortunate because we have goldfinches the whole year round!
    Shady Gardener: I'm glad you stopped by! Glad you enjoyed the photos!

  26. Hi Jan,
    I think gardeners are a little more apt to develop depression in winter. Wonder of one could use the sad light to grow seedlings? !! Two birds singing at once! Also vitamin D I've heard to help.
    kind regards,

  27. Very interesting info Jan. I enjoy bird and smokie blooming over here. :) HUG

  28. Wonderful bird photos...and such a variety of kinds, you must feed them very well!
    I suffer from SAD, usually starting in Jan., but since getting a light box a few years ago it is much improved.

  29. I’m so happy to read this post. I’ve always thought in the past I was affected by S.A.D. but I have had several good years. It has me perplexed as to why I am suffering so much this year. Reading this post has helped me to realize I’m not the only one that feels this way. Though I do wish I knew why it is happening this year, I’m going to research the link you provided more. Jan, I really do like the idea that you list what you are thankful for at the end of each post. Would mind if I followed you lead and did the same on all my post? BTW your photos are fabulous! Hoping you have a happy New Year.--Randy

  30. Jan,

    Thanks for reposting your article. I walk in all seasons (even when it gets really snowy up here) and I've found that the combination of the exercise and the light exposure has a really positive impact on my mood. Even when I'm feeling a bit low, and walking is the last thing I want to do, I go out anyway and then Yipee! the mood lifts.

    I think the same can be said of gardening... which as we all know can be aerobic exercise sometimes.

  31. Your bluebirds are beautiful, Jan -- I hope they are always bluebirds of happiness for you. :)


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