As days are getting shorter and shorter and nights longer, I have started feeling a little bit blue. Here is why: the SAD syndrome never missed the chance to appear during the fall, and after having appeared, it used to continue throughout the winter, making me feel painfully slow, lethargic and utterly destitute and depressed.
- How Candles Help Me Keep Seasonal Depression at Bay
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is SAD?
- Why do we experience SAD in the fall and winters?
- What are the symptoms of SAD?
- Does SAD affect all people equally?
- How long SAD lasts?
- Are some people more at risk to SAD than others?
- Is SAD treatable?
- How do lighting candles help in preventing and/or treating SAD?
- Scented Candles Cheaper than Light Therapy Lamps and Boxes (and Safer Too)
How Candles Help Me Keep Seasonal Depression at Bay
Lighting candles is not just a matter of aesthetics, scented candles benefits include treating seasonal depression. Since I now understand that light therapy is one of the many things that help me in effectively dealing with this issue, I have already started including candlelight therapy in my mornings. This therapy, or ritual as I like to call it, comprises lighting the candle on my nightstand and me savoring its flame and warmth, while my sleepy senses and body slowly awaken.
I now understand why most of ancient rituals during the winters and religious festivals in winter, be it the Advent, Hanukka, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, include candles. Despite being more spiritual than religious, I understand that what better way there is than to light a candle in order to fight the darkness of the world (and within) and the impending doom!
Anyhow, coming back to understanding my own way through the seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), here is how it came about:
Many years back, on a particularly dark, cold and foggy morning in Michigan, I was sitting in my tiny kitchen. There was a power outage, deprived of my coffee (and sanity), I retrieved my mama’s old chipped and dented porcelain teapot. I slipped a tea light candle under it.
While I was waiting for my tea to get ready, I began to notice the extent my dingy kitchen’s vibe had changed. It was no longer a dreary and cold space, but a space with warmth, light and coziness. Similarly, my mind didn’t seem to recall the fragrance of the tealight candle. It was a cheap, store bought candle.
But whatever scent it contained and the light and shadow it casts on the cold walls were mesmerizing. I did feel less irritable. Not to mention, having a nearly hot cup of beverage on a very cold and powerless day felts rejuvenating.
This is the impact a little light has on you on a particularly dark and trying day. It has the ability to enter the crevices of your unhinged mind and give you more succor, some hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Why I Love Lighting Candles in Winter
The therapeutic benefits of scented candles are one of the reasons due to which the sales of scented candle pick up during the fall and winter. Undoubtedly, candles are a great choice as gifts for seasonal depression affected people.
I love getting hold of and trying different kinds of scented candles, irrespective of the season. However, I buy and light scented candles with the fervor of a person on the verge of getting sick and trying to fight it off as the season starts cooling down. Thus, lighting candles for me are not part of aesthetics. They have a deeper purpose.
I light a candle right after waking up in the morning and then carry it to my breakfast table. Savoring its warmth and fragrance while having my toast and tea helps me envision the kind of day I want to have ahead: warm, calm, peaceful and serene. Lighting a candle while I am going about my day, whether working from home, cleaning or cooking, or reading a book, having a scented candle helps me find joy in day to day activities. At night, by my nightstand, the flame of the candlelight is a welcome break for my eyes from the artificial blue light of the gadgets we end up staring all day long. All in all, candles help us find our groundings in an otherwise fast and chaotic life.
One of my friends suffers from a high degree of anxiety. Winters in Maine can be really challenging for her. She uses scented candles as her lifeline to survive the dark months. A work acquaintance growing in Alaska recounts how lighting candles was something not reserved for festivities but a daily ritual.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the questions commonly asked about SAD, its symptoms, and treatment options:
What is SAD?
SAD is an abbreviation of seasonal affective disorder. It is a psychological disorder that follows the change in patterns of the season. This means that a person suffering from SAD experiences significant depressive patterns during the fall and winter season. However, once spring and summer approaches, the disorder subsides or remediates itself, with little or no intervention. SAD impacts millions of people in colder regions like UK and Northern Europe each year.
Why do we experience SAD in the fall and winters?
One of the major reasons we experience SAD in the fall and winter season is due to the decrease in sunlight. As fall and then winter approach, daytime tend to get shortened and so does our exposure to natural sunlight. Furthermore, the absence of natural light also inhibits the hypothalamus from functioning normally. As a result, the production of melatonin increases, consequently, making us feel drowsy all the time.
Meanwhile, our serotonin levels go down and the serotonin transporter (SERT) process in the brain also gets diminished, making us prone to mood disturbances. This, chemical imbalance in our brain in turn affects our psychological and emotional sense well-being and makes prone to depression, mania and hypomania.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
The symptoms of SAD are similar to depression. It manifests itself through the tendencies of disinterest, unexplained bouts of sadness, crying, lethargy, drowsiness, inability to concentrate, a decline in productivity, irregular sleeping pattern and sleep duration, excessive craving of carbohydrates, compulsive eating, weight gain, and in extreme cases, having suicidal thoughts, and more. Hence, weather changes not only affect our mood but our energy levels decline as well, as the mercury sinks.
Does SAD affect all people equally?
SAD impacts people in varying degrees. For instance, women are known to get affected by SAD more than their male counterparts, due to unknown reasons. Then the symptoms and extent of SAD also vary among patients. Some people may get affected by SAD in a mild way, which is known as the “winter blues”. This means that you would feel uneasy and down due to spending a lot more time indoors than outdoors. However, there are others who would experience SAD to an extreme degree. This more serious form of SAD is a kind of depression, requiring serious and timely intervention. Likewise, SAD impacts the activities of people in different ways. Some would be able to remain functional, while others may face a significant amount of difficulty in carrying out their day-to-day activities.
How long SAD lasts?
SAD makes its appearance as soon as autumn and continues throughout the months of winters. However, as soon as, we enter spring, the symptoms of SAD start subsiding. Interestingly, some people experience the opposite, i.e., they experience SAD during the summers and tend to feel better once autumn and then winter approaches.
Are some people more at risk to SAD than others?
Susceptibility to SAD depends upon certain factors, such as gender, geographic positioning and the existing psychological health. For instance,
- Women are more at risk to SAD than men.
- SAD is likely to affect teenagers.
- People living at higher latitudes are likely to get affected by SAD.
- People living far away from the equator, in colder regions, are also likely to get affected from SAD.
- Individuals with preexisting psychological conditions like depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are at risk of SAD.
Is SAD treatable?
SAD is completely reversible. Following are some of the modes of treatment:
- Light therapy comprising the use of light therapy lamps and light boxes.
- Counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
- Antidepressants prescribed by a medical practitioner, in combination of other forms of treatment.
- Prolonged exposure to the sun through indulging in physical activities.
- Improving the entrance of sunlight and natural light in our living spaces and our exposure to them.
- Taking Vitamin D supplement.
- The use of weighed blanket at night.
- Exercising regularly.
How do lighting candles help in preventing and/or treating SAD?
Scented candles do have a remarkable tendency to help us calm down through the warmth of the flame and their enchanting fragrance. They create a harmonious space and ambience around us, which lowers our cortisol level and make us feel blissfully sleepy. Lighting spa grade candles during bathing in winters create a spa like environment at home and make us feel relaxed and cosy, instead of making us shiver.
Scented Candles Cheaper than Light Therapy Lamps and Boxes (and Safer Too)
Light therapy comprises using gadgets like a light therapy lamp or a light box. They radiate light 20 times stronger than indoor light. Spending two hours or some in front of them has a significant impact on the people suffering from SAD. However, such kind of devices are expensive, and hence not within everyone’s reach. Moreover, the light they emit happens to be very strong and can have an opposite effect on a patient suffering from SAD if not used correctly.
In comparison, candles are much cheaper than these devices and fairly safer. Through activating our limbic system, scented candles have positively impacted the people suffering from psychological disorders like SAD, anxiety, depression, and or schizophrenia.
Seasonal Affective Disorder aka SAD is a condition that affects a sizable number of people during the fall and winter. Don’t take the winter blues as a fad that would wear out on its own. You can take easy steps like having light therapy, having more exposure to natural light, getting Vitamin D supplements, and engaging in mindful practices to help you beat the blues. A scented candle benefits someone suffering from SAD greatly. It is an alternative form of light therapy that is cheaper and convenient. In fact, candles make great gifts for seasonal depression impacted people.