Does waking up in the dark make you S.A.D.?Oct 27, 2021
Every weekday morning, I lead a half hour meditation practice. And every morning, the little squares on my Zoom screen have been getting darker as the sun comes up later. Most of my fellow Morning Mavens practice to the natural light, which is why I can't see many of their beautiful faces anymore.
Which takes me to this time of year when daylight hours steadily decrease until post Winter Solstice, and when many people are negatively affected (and for some, crippled) by this. Not only do they have difficulty getting up, they tend to socially isolate more during this time, and they report a decrease in both creativity and productivity. The likelihood of being more dramatically impacted by the seasons is even higher if you're prone to depression (1).
If this is you, it's even more essential to make a conscious intention to do your morning practice early (and daily). Ideally before sunrise. Our Morning Maven's come together on Zoom to meditate from 6 to 6:30 am central time, and this makes a difference.
If you haven't started with morning meditation, this is a good time to start.
If you search the words "morning vs night owl" with any of the following: health, happiness, creativity, productivity, success," you'll find a surprising number of articles and studies that say morning people are generally happier, more creative, productive, and tend to make healthier choices (2) (3).
On the list of things successful people do, getting up early is one of them.
The word chronotype also comes up, which suggests that you may be "naturally" a morning lark or night owl. But they also say that this isn't set in stone. In fact, the verdict is out whether your chronotype determines happiness or happiness determines chronotype. Either way, there's evidence that habits can shift your chronotype! They all point to getting up according to the circadian rhythms of nature to improve wellness.
Among many other benefits, meditation stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands - those master glands that affect mood, joy, and overall sense of wellness. The pineal is responsible for dripping melatonin into the bloodstream, allowing us to feel relaxed and get enough sleep. I've seen it referred to as the happiness gland. In order for the pineal to be working properly, one of the things that need to happen is that we need to follow the natural rhythms of the day (here it is again). Getting up before sunrise not only helps with that, but practiced daily, it will start to inform and shift your decisions in a sustainable way that supports good health and happiness.
No matter where you are on the Seasonal Affective Disorder spectrum, don't just bite the bullet until things start to slowly turn around sometime after the New Year. That's too long to suffer. The holiday season adds to the stress, making it even tougher to adapt to the new schedule, tap into gratitude, feel the unconditional love for your families, and fully enjoy the celebrations of life that this season yearns to bring.
If doing this alone is challenging for you, become a Morning Maven and join the Sadhana Huddle every weekday. It will become the power boost for your day.
Whether you decide to do it alone or join us, give yourself this early holiday gift and keep up with your daily morning meditation practice. It works better and faster than you can imagine.
(1) Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder by Norman Rosenthal
(2) Randler, C. Morningness–Eveningness and Satisfaction with Life. Soc Indic Res 86, 297–302 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-007-9139-x
(3) Biss, R. K., & Hasher, L. (2012). Happy as a lark: Morning-type younger and older adults are higher in positive affect. Emotion, 12(3), 437–441. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027071