The Gloomy Season: Cheer Up!

The ice palace in Dr. Zhivago

  At least we don’t live in the ice palace in Dr. Zhivago! 

It is the gloomy season.

Sunset:  4:56 p.m.

Full-spectrum lamp:  bring it up from the basement.

Turkey (for high tryptophan content):  Thanksgiving

Dark chocolate (releases serotonin):  please.

Yogurt (another antidepressant):  we’ve got it.

Green tea (for theanine):  yes.

Some people revel in the dark.  They believe in Standard Time. My body needs Daylight Savings Time. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the Seasonal Affective Disorder syndrome (a winter depression) is triggered by the lessening light and lasts four or five months until the days become longer.

As soon as we set the clock back, I am blue.  It’s as if I am a vampire in reverse. Every day at 5 p.m., I am dispirited.


1.Watch Doctor  Zhivago.  David Lean’s dazzling film, starring Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, is set in a dark frozen Russian winter.  There’s balance in realizing winter can be so hard. It’s just not that bad here! And the acting is magnificent.  I defy you to take your eyes off beautiful Lara (Christie) and handsome Yuri Zhivago ( Sharif).  The ice palace scenes are breathtaking (Lara and Yury move into a deserted frozen country house in Varykino when they have no place to go and are on the run).  Filmed in Spain, the ice palace was actually a house filled with frozen beeswax.

Julie Christie and Omar Sharif in

Julie Christie and Omar Sharif in “Doctor Zhivago”

2. Play board games.  If you memorize the dictionary, you’ll win at Scrabble, and what’s not to like about building words on a board out of wooden letters ?   Oxford Dilemma, a trivia and spelling board game, is also entertaining.  Roll the dice, move around the Monopoly-style board, and earn money for answering trivia questions in four categories (Science, Famous, General, and Geography) and then spelling the answer. Despite our literary leanings, we had some glitches:  my husband misspelled “maneuver” as  “manoeuvre”  (later we found out  it is the French spelling!) and I wondered if an Inca city I’d never heard of might be spelled Mazo Pekzu!  Nope, not even close.  It’s Machu Picchu.  (And yet I won.)

Oxford Dilemma pic76303_md3. Read Aristophanes.  He is racy, satiric, poetic, and the best Greek comic dramatist. Laughter is a natural antidepressant.  He is hilarious, but also serious : Athens was at war with Sparta for 27 years of his career, and many of his plays are anti-war. My favorite is Lysistrata :  the heroine, Lysistrata, plots to stop the war:  the women must withhold sex until the men stop fighting.

Lysistrata 51xaUPzM9vLHere is an excerpt from the Paul Roche translation when she first tells a friend women can stop the war:

CALONICE: We’re just household ornaments in flaxen
and negligees you see through,
all nicely made up in pretty come-hither flats.

LYSISTRATA: Precisely, that’s
exactly what we’re going to need to save Greece:
a seductive wardrobe, our rouge, our negligees and our
pretty flats.

4. Listen to old albums:  Cream, Blind Faith, Jefferson Airplane, the Beatles, Lou Reed, the Mamas and the Papas.  You’ll be surprised how cheering you’ll find it, even when the songs are gloomy.



Here’s a stanza from Cream’s “White Room”:

In the white room with black curtains near the station
Blackroof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes
Dawnlight smiles on you leaving, my contentment
I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines

Good writing, huh?

5.  Walk,  run, bike, or rake.  Get out!   It’s important to  get that Vitamin D from light, even if it’s not sunlight.  You’ll feel better if you move around,.