One of my favorite songs for the boys is You Are My Sunshine – well, the one verse that goes like this…”you are my sunshine, my only sunshine/ You make me happy when skies are gray/ You’ll never know dear how much I love you/ Please don’t take my sunshine away.” (For the fuller, somewhat sadder version from the Man in Black, click here.) Among other reasons to like this ditty (like actually knowing the words) I like this it ties sunshine to joy. And therefore my kids to both joy and sunshine.
I never went so far as to seek a diagnosis, but I think SAD is a real thing and that I had some level of seasonal affective disorder. When we were on the East Coast I found it terribly hard to get out of bed and function in the winter months. It was all so depressing – dark, wet, cold.
Vegas is not the panacea I had anticipated. Vegas suffers from some false advertising. First, what happens here doesn’t really stay here. Second, it isn’t actually 100 degrees here every day, all year long. In fact, it is downright chilly in the winter. We have been in the 50′s already, the wind is cutting and snow was visible low on the mountains in this the first week of November. January will see highs in the 40′s. I understand it is no Minnesota; no one it hitting the pool for New Year’s either. It is, however, sunny nearly everyday.
Out East I thought I was maybe being a little dramatic in my feelings on winter and really placed the blame on the temps. Don’t get me wrong I still think Nathan is right: I am a different person when it is less than 20* out. Not a nice person at that. But living here I see that the sun is what really makes the difference. The sun is to me so absolutely life affirming and restorative. It is a basic building block of daily joy for me. I rarely take it for granted, even having been here 6 years.
I was reminded of this connection as I read this week’s Newsweek and Dr. Andrew Weil’s excerpt from Spontaneous Happiness. I think he is on to something – and that something is why I have increasingly turned my life and my family to appreciate nature and what is natural. His premise is that humans have not evolved to spend all day indoors in from of screens with limited social interaction.
In his bullet points of evidence that we as humans should spend more time in nature is that Vitamin D is essential and is obtained by time in the sun. Also, the rhythm of our lives is driven by cycles of light and dark in nature.
I love when I can feel my skin making vitamin D. I think that is really the feeling of being cooked but, man, it gets my dopamine receptors firing.
In a world where just about everything is sold as a gateway to happiness, what kind of role could simple, plentiful sunshine really play? All I have to say is you’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away…