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How have you been feeling lately? Does it seem like you have a decreased amount of energy? Do you feel fatigued? Have you been craving sugar and eating more than usual? In the last two months have you had difficulty getting out of bed in the morning? Are you sleeping more than usual, been less productive, and more irritable?

If you answered “yes” to most of those questions you may have S.A.D.? What is S.A.D.? Those three letters are an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a mild to severe depression that affects millions of people each fall and winter. In laymen’s terms we might call it the “winter blues.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight, which in turn alters a person’s brain chemistry. During the fall and winter months when the hours of daylight are shorter, less light passes through the eyes which then inhibits the release of an important brain chemical, serotonin. When serotonin is not released in sufficient quantities, symptoms of depression may occur. Melatonin, another important brain chemical which regulates our sleep cycle, is released in greater quantities, adding to the depressive state.

How is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) treated? The standard treatment for this disorder is “light” therapy. In fact, it is the primary treatment recommended by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, and it is also backed by extensive medical research through the prestigious National Institute of Mental Health. The principal behind light therapy is that by increasing a person’s exposure to bright light, the chemicals in a person’s brain can be brought back to normal levels and lessen or remove the symptoms of S.A.D. The advantages of light therapy are that it is simple to administer, requires no medication, and has minimal side effects.

Although (S.A.D.) only affects a few of us, about 1 in 5 people, there is a similar spiritual disease that affects all of us. Let’s call it Spiritual Affective Disorder. At times our spiritual life may enter a season of sleepiness. We may become lethargic in our love for God and unproductive in our life of service to him. We may be drawn into the darkness of sin and the evil deeds that go with that darkness. In turn our lives are not what they could be.

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