Monday, January 25, 2010

January blahs

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” – John 8:12 (NLT)

Yay! Only one week left in January! By this time next week, daylight will be longer by 15 minutes. Hooray!

January, for me, is a long, dark month. I want to sleep and eat more, especially bread and pasta—all those “bad” carbs that put on the pounds and make me feel tired and achy. Not surprising, January is when I gain the most weight—and am grumpier and moodier than in other months--and take the most afternoon naps (shadows of hibernation?).

These are all classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression that hits folks like me during the winter months, when the daylight hours are shortest. Scientists believe the lack of sunlight affects the output of serotonin, called the brain’s natural “feel good” chemical because it regulates mood, appetite and sleep. The more serotonin, the better you feel. You’re not so grumpy, hungry and tired.

Since serotonin is affected by the amount of time spent in natural sunlight, the treatment for SAD is simple: more light. “Bright light therapy” involves spending at least half an hour, usually in the morning, before a “light box.” These “winter depression lamps,” which cost from $90 to $200, are effective, but you need to stick with the program until the season changes and not stop once you start feeling better.

I can’t afford a SAD light, but on those few days when the sky isn’t overcast, I can take time to sit in the sun shining through my windows, or, if the driveway isn’t icy, go for a walk. I can follow a sensible, nutritional eating plan that satisfies both my appetite and my taste buds. And I can exercise regularly, even if it isn’t a heart-pounding, sweat-producing, energy-draining aerobic workout.

So was the plan for January 2010. I set what I thought was a reasonable goal: lose one pound per week. It’s been a real battle. There are days I’m wiped out from the exercise, days when all I want to do is sleep and eat. I’ve gone off my plan several times. But each time, I got right back on.

At this point, three weeks into the program, the numbers on my bathroom scale tell me I weigh a pound and a half less than I did Jan. 1. This can be discouraging, but at least the numbers are down. That’s like six sticks of butter I’m no longer carrying around.

Biblically, darkness represents evil, sin and ignorance—a lack of the knowledge of God and His goodness. Just as physical darkness is the absence of light, so spiritual darkness is the absence of the Light—the Son that shines in our souls when we open our hearts and lives and let Him in.

But throwing open the windows of our souls one time isn’t enough the help us as we battle the darkness of the world in which we must live. Just like a person affected by SAD must spend at least half an hour every morning absorbing light, so must our spirits spend time with the Light of the World every day, absorbing His Word and basking in His presence through prayer. This—and only this—will give us the energy to say no to the bad carbs of temptation and avoid adding the weight of sin to our world-weary spirits. Spending time in the Sonlight will give us energy to exercise righteousness and will satisfy the taste buds of our souls (“O taste and see that the LORD is good” Psalm 34:8).

The season of darkness won’t be over until Jesus, the Son of God, returns, but until then, you can fight the January blahs—both physically and spiritually—with a two-word plan: Fiat lux—Latin for “Let there be light!”

"Light of the World, You stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see beauty that made this heart adore You, hope of a life spent with You. So here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You’re my God"*. . . Thank you, Lord, for Your unending light that warms me, lightens my path and fills me energy. Amen.

*From “Here I Am to Worship,” by Tim Hughes © 2001 Thankyou Music

Special-Tea: Ephesians 5:8–14

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