Every quarter, I write articles about how affirmations have worked powerfully in my life or in the lives of others. I truly believe there is healing power in positive words and thoughts, I use affirmations myself, and that passion for spreading the news about affirmations drove me to design and print Affirming Spirit Affirmation cards as well as develop the Affirming Spirit website. I don't need to be convinced that affirmations work. I know they do.

As the Seasons Change
However, every year as the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler, I find myself less able to think positively—even when using affirmations—and more inclined to prefer solitude and darkness. It sounds crazy, but I just want to hibernate!! It's hard for someone like myself, who understands the power of positive thought, to understand why positive thought is not as affective during the winter months. Instead, the thought of crawling into a cave, falling asleep and not coming out until spring becomes very appealing to me! Literally, there are days when it takes me all day just to wake up. To some, my behavior seems definitely depressed compared to my normally outgoing, upbeat, and friendly personality. Of course, when Spring comes with warmer weather and more sunshine, I'm a social butterfly once again.

Having displayed this behavior since I was a young child, I was astonished when I moved to Salt Lake City, to attend college, that I no longer felt the same lethargy during the winter months. If you haven't been to this rocky mountain city in the winter, let me just say it's BRIGHT. Being 3,500 feet above sea level, Salt Lake City is not only closer to the sun but the sun is out a lot during the winter time...or at least a lot more than I was used to while growing up. Even when the sun is not shining, the snow reflects the illumination of the skies and it is dramatically brighter than the eastern town near Lake Ontario where I was raised. During winter, Utah's sky is often bright blue with big puffy white clouds—a dramatic contrast to the dark gray gloom of Western NY state that I was accustomed to!!

Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD]
While living in Salt Lake City, I first learned about and realized that I might have Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is characterized by depression that occurs only during the winter months, or when sunlight is minimal, and it is so common that the symptoms are usually accepted as normal. It is estimated that 25 million people every year in the U.S. alone suffer from SAD. While this disorder is found more often in women (four times!) than men, it is usually accompanied by carbohydrate cravings, excessive sleeping, weight gain, fatigue, reduced drive, and sometimes lowered immunity.

Scientists currently believe that high levels of melatonin, triggered by less sunlight during the winter months, are the cause of SAD. Bright light treatment has been found to be affective in alleviating the symptoms in more than 80% of those affected by 'winter blues'. Exposure to bright light can dramatically lower the amount of melatonin in the bloodstream. You can learn more about SAD and the use of light as a healing tool in the groundbreaking book entitled, Light—Medicine of the Future: How We Can Use It to Heal Ourselves Now, by Jacob Liberman, O.D., Ph.D. This is a fascinating book about the importance of light on brain function, and a must-read for anyone that wants to understand how the brain works!

Let There Be Light
For years, I've suspected that I had SAD and knew there were lights available that could alleviate the symptoms. Several years ago, I changed all the light bulbs in my house to full spectrum bulbs and did notice that the light from these bulbs is much less yellow. Still, I just couldn't imagine how a light box specifically designed for sufferers of SAD could make a difference in mood.

In late 2004, I decided that I'd lived long enough with this issue and it was time to find a solution. I found a special 10,000 lux desk light that I use every morning when I first get up, while it is often still gloomy outside, to illuminate me while I journal and start my day. Quickly I forget that it's even there, but I am amazed at the results. In just a few days, I not only had more energy and didn't need my usual afternoon nap, but I also had fewer cravings and was more efficient with my time. I've gotten a lot done since buying this lamp and notice that it really helps my mind focus. Conversely, I’ve learned not to use it to late at night or I have a harder time falling asleep. Who knew light could make this much of a difference?

When Affirmations Alone Are Not Enough
Affirmations are a fabulous tool for the healthy mind, but they won't help you if you are suffering from SAD, clinical or manic depression, or any other condition that saps your mental energies. So, if you recognize yourself in the description of SAD, or suspect that you have a condition that is hampering your life, seek treatment from a qualified practitioner that you respect. You will be glad you did! The increased energy and improved attitude will make working with affirmations an even more powerful experience.

Regular exercise is also an important tool in mood elevation, and can easily work in conjunction with light therapy. You can also combine daily walks with affirmations. Before going out for walks, I sometimes will read my affirmations just before I leave the house, then repeat them to myself as I walk, and return home to read the affirmations one more time. Repetitive movement of the body will spark the endorphins, the feel-good hormones, in your brain which further lift your mood. I've often noticed that I feel better after exercising, but when you are suffering from SAD or any other form of depression, it's hard to even motivate yourself to move. The bottom line is: You can't get the benefit of exercise without actually doing it, so get help if you need it.

*Source: Light—Medicine of the Future: How We Can Use It to Heal Ourselves Now, by Jacob Liberman, O.D., Ph.D., 1991, Bear & Co., Inc. ISBN: 0-939680-80-7

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Barry-Jansson is the founder of AffirmingSpirit.com, an intuitive affirmations coach, and a self-employed illustrator/designer living in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Ms. Barry-Jansson has been using affirmations for more than 20 years and created AffirmingSpirit (cards, accessories, and information) to share her knowledge and inspiration with others. To learn more, visit www.affirmingspirit.com.