Thursday, February 18, 2010

Forcing Spring

By Kristen Boyesen, Life Learning & Creativity Coach
Published in The Bedford Standard, Feb. 18. 2010.

One can force bulbs into winter blooming. Can you force Spring?

The days are still short, and Spring still seems ages away. Flickers of moodiness and seasonal depression are problems for everyone from time to time.

How do you start your day?

There is a time of no time, a place of no place, where we exist before the waking world makes itself known. Awareness slowly opens, and we remember who we are and where we are. The day has begun.

In winter, this slow process of waking to consciousness is stopped on several counts. It is dark! One wants to sleep when it is dark! We resort to alarm clocks to startle us awake to a pitch-black world. The dark adds temporary confusion to the shock of the sound of the alarm.

In summer, the light of dawn arrives before most of us wake for the day and the appearance of light while we are sleeping begins a gentle waking. We open our eyes to a visually visible day.

Fifteen years ago I was as a leaf blowing in the wind, subject to mood swings caused by the weather and the short days of winter. When I heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and learned that light was the solution, I took immediate steps to be in charge of dark-induced mood swings. Sitting for hours in front of an expensive light box was not what I wanted to do.

My solution was to use light in the dark corners of my home, even in the daytime. Clusters of plants were happy to have a timed light pop on at 6 AM. (It turned off whenever the sun was able to take over.) Islands of greenery bathed in pools of light now greet my entry to the kitchen and living areas of the house on cold and dark winter days. What a pleasure!

The most important light, however, is in the bedroom, timed to come on at 5:30 AM. It is not a bright light, nor is it anywhere near the bed. Its purpose is to mimic the dawn, so is located next to the East-facing window. The gentle waking that happens in the long days of summer happens year ‘round with a simple timed light in the bedroom. Gentle waking to the day allows time for appreciation before beginning the day’s tasks, and appreciation is a great immune booster. (See more on the effects of appreciation on the body in the Jan 7 issue of The Bedford Standard online.)

Being startled awake to an alarm starts the day with a shot of fight-or-flight adrenaline.
Fight-or-flight is triggered when your life or safety is in danger. The classic example is “the tiger at the cave door”. The tiger leaves us no choice, and is a good reason for a healthy shot of adrenaline.

Your thoughts determine how the body responds to a situation. Your thoughts alone can trigger a fight-or-flight adrenaline rush. Perception alone can cause stress. If you think it is essential that every speck of dust be removed before company arrives for you to be valued as a human being, if you think you must have that contract completed by an arbitrary deadline or else … then you are creating modern-day versions of the tiger at the cave door.

These kinds of daily stressors can become chronic. A side effect of fight-or-flight is cortisol, an immune-busting hormone that makes you susceptible to illness. Constant stress lowers health and wellness. In my own experience, I once believed that the “go get ‘em” attitude was the only way to live, and I mentally created daily adrenaline to be constantly active. The side effects were lower back pain, chronic pain, mood swings and digestive problems. Once I realized what I was doing, I stopped my daily dose of adrenaline, and the physical problems all but disappeared.

We have choices. We can be as that leaf blowing in the wind, feeling helpless to determine the outcomes of our lives … or we can take action for change. A simple and inexpensive solution to ward off winter blues is to install a timed light in the bedroom. Allowing your body to wake naturally to the light of dawn is an easy way to help you start the day in a positive mood. Your smiles throughout the day will be your reward for bringing early morning light into your home. You can indeed Force Spring!

Kristen Boyesen, a resident of Bedford, offers art and meditation-based classes and workshops for core creativity training and empowerment for change. She belongs to the American Holistic Medical Association Speakers Bureau, the Bedford Senior Network, and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio. She gives rehabilitation workshops at the Brecksville VA Medical Center and is a graduate student in Art Therapy and Counseling at Ursuline College. Contact her at Kboyesen(at)thebedfordstandard.com.
Visit www.Art-Experiences.blogspot.com to see accompanying photos.

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