Isn’t it lovely to finally have the feeling that we have seen the back of winter (although I am touching wood as I write this because it is not unusual for winter to still have the last laugh and send one final ferocious slap in March). For a number of reasons, one being the current lockdown, this one has seemed particularly drawn out and so the longer days, the lighter nights, the buds on the trees, and the emergence of long dormant plants offer us a sense of hope that better, warmer weather is not far away.
I was reading a column my dad wrote from March 1978 where he explained how difficult he found it to adequately describe these fascinating weeks when the countryside starts to wake up and come back to life, and the feelings that it generated within him. He instead resorted to the writings of others whom he thought did a better job, such as these words from Alexander Pope:
‘In that soft season, when descending showers
Call forth the greens and wake the rising flowers;
When opening buds salute the welcome day
And Earth relenting feels the genial ray.’
And these from H.G.Adams:
‘A bursting into greenness,
A waking as from sleep,
A twitter and a warble,
That make the pulses leap;
A watching, as in childhood,
For the flowers that, one by one,
Open their golden petals,
To woo the fitful sun,
A gust, a flash, a gurgle,
A wish to shout and sing,
As, filled with hope and gladness,
We hail the vernal Spring.’
Just reading those short verses brings a smile to my face and a sense of hope that my favourite season of the year is just around the corner.
It is well documented that the arrival of Spring brightens our moods, and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) has been a recognised condition since the 1990s. This is where it is believed that a reduction in exposure to sunlight, longer nights, colder days and extended periods of bad weather can cause some people to suffer melancholy, lethargy and even severe depression. It has its own entry on the NHS website, with treatments ranging from increasing outdoor activity, lightbox therapy, counselling and antidepressants.
But a large-scale US study published in the journal ‘Clinical Psychological Science’ in 2016 casts doubt on whether it is a bona fide condition. The study showed that levels of depression in adults were consistent across different latitudes, seasons and levels of exposure to sunlight, and that they didn’t increase in winter.
Of course, that may be true, and I do wonder if there are people who get depressed particularly during hot sunny weather? Not everyone likes the heat. The thing is, there are people I know who are definitely less happy in winter, and if sitting in front of a lightbox helps, then why not?
I recently heard that the light emitted from the screen of a tablet or mobile phone has the same effect as daylight, so if you are struggling to get to sleep at night, then you need to stop looking at your screens at least an hour and half before you go to bed. I’m not very good at that, and often find myself tuning in to something on my tablet late at night, and even occasionally fall asleep while watching. I also know my boys definitely do not switch off their screens until just before they go to sleep. But we still seem to manage to nod off fairly easily, thankfully.
I can imagine that some may have found this latest lockdown more difficult thanks to the wintry weather and those of us forced to stay at home have spent far more time inside staring at screens than we would otherwise do. First time round, which unbelievably is almost a year ago now, we were blessed with a lot of fine, dry days, so it was easy to get out on walks and bike rides, which hasn’t been the case this time around.
Thankfully, as I write this, the signs are that the restrictions will soon be easing and, fingers crossed, we might be able to return to some kind of normality, just as the warmer, brighter days of Spring are upon us.
Now wouldn’t that be welcome!
Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 12th and the Gazette & Herald on 10th March 2021