Goodbye, SAD

People who know me well would say I’m a positive person.  I wake up most mornings full of hope and possibility, ready to conquer the world.  This is a gift that I do not take for granted, especially after my experience with SAD.

It began with a few bad winters in New Jersey.  This Southern girl had no idea how to cope with being stuck in a small apartment for weeks on end.  Freezing temperatures and piled up snow prevented me from venturing out with my newborn and toddler.  So mostly, we just stayed inside.

Once we made the move to Israel, I thought that I had left my winter woes behind.  But as it turned out, I still felt feelings of dread every December when winter rolled around.  As the months passed, that dread would turn to negativity and unhappiness.  Winter dragged on.  I longed to be a brown bear, so I could hibernate through the season. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.

I tried watching comedy videos. I tried mid-winter vacations.  I took walks and exercised. Those things helped.  But one year, something changed dramatically.  I finally discovered a permanent and wonderful solution to my winter blues: hiking.

Rather than limit my winter excursions to our usual morning and evening walks, I began to take long hikes weekly. I realized that the more I got outdoors throughout the winter, the better I felt. 

After just one season of this outdoor routine, SAD had completely vanished from my life.

Turns out that if you get outdoors and get your blood moving, winter actually doesn’t have to be depressing, at least here in Israel.  Richly colored carpets of moss, rain puddles, and fallen acorns make up the winter terrain, but you can only see them if you go outside. Cyclamen pop through cracks in the rocks and almond trees blossom. And even when it is cloudy, winter rain clouds have their own special drama.

In Israel in wintertime there are colorful flowers to see, deserts to explore, and beaches to hike on.  Hiking trails in the Dead Sea area enjoy warm temperatures year-round. That summer vibe is accessible all winter long in Israel: as long as you’re willing to travel a bit to find it.

It’s no surprise that getting outdoors regularly into Israel’s nature cured my SAD for good.  Who could stay depressed upon encountering green and beautiful terrain that you can’t see at any other time of year?  Every week, as I escaped from the cloud that covered my mountaintop town, I felt my heart soar.  Just a short car ride away, I experienced sun as it filtered through the rain drops.  Birds chirped.  Nature touched my heart and made me happy.

Being in nature is a form of therapy, even on winter day.  Discovering this truth changed my SAD back to happy.  Would you believe it? Now, I even look forward to winter time.

Nature therapy on a cold and rainy January day.

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