Pandemic Winter Health Hacks

Make Peace With the Early Darkness

Seize the day so nighttime doesn’t get you down

This January nonsense of daylight disappearance by 5 p.m. is not my favorite. Especially not now, when all sense of time is already shaky due to pandemic stay-at-home life.

I’ve come to define a poorly managed midwinter day as one where day bleeds into night and I never manage to get outside, move my body, and soak up what sun I can. On a well-managed day, I work steadily starting early in the morning (ideally alongside a simmering pot of soup) — pausing to eat, exercise, and execute mom duties — and by the time the sun is bedding down, I actually look forward to nesting at home. Days no longer anchored by drive times or places to be can give way to a unique form of creativity in the dark hours.

Yet, when you dig into the science of how darkness impacts the human body and brain, as Maya Kroth did for Elemental, what you find is astounding — and has little to do with productivity. Darkness “can make us more likely to lie and cheat, make mistakes at work, and even see things we don’t normally see,” writes Kroth. Hmm, I might call that an endorsement for a reliably steady bedtime, particularly for those prone to evening stress.

If you ask me, darkness is best seen these days as an invitation to quiet down and do what calms you — and it’s far easier to heed the call after a satisfying day. Of course, it pays to be reasonable when defining satisfaction in a pandemic, but try to hit that mark as often as you can, as it will make it easier to befriend the darkness when it arrives (without fail) at your door every evening at 5.

Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants

Senior Platform Editor, Elemental. I write and edit stories about health, science, well-being, and behavior.

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