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November 5, 2010 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Help me get a solar recharge during the winter!

For the past ten years, I've been living where the nights are long and the days are gray in winter (Seattle), and it finally became tough to endure a couple of years ago, even with a light box and vitamin D and regular exercise all the usual remedies.

Now I'd like to try jaunts to sunnier climes, and have a few questions.

This is a new tactic, so I'm curious about other peoples' S.A.D.-related winter sun-seeking: How far south did you need to travel? How long did you stay? For how long do you feel the effects lasted? Any other tips for getting the most out of this?

(Obviously, this will likely vary widely from person to person, but I'm hoping to cobble together a general idea of what to shoot for, hopefully without breaking the bank.)

posted by bunji to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Bunji, could you venture to the east side of the Cascades? I don't know about E'burg and Spokane, but I lived for a while in Central Oregon, and the winters there are much sunnier than they are in the Willamette Valley.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:12 AM on November 5, 2010

For me, SAD didn't kick in in the winter, it hit in Jan or Feb - when it stops being cold and just becomes miserable.

I can't give you any advice on distance, but I found a week in the sun in mid to late Jan killed SAD stone dead.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:18 AM on November 5, 2010

Response by poster: I've tried some of that (also Sequim), and it helps, but not enough. Perhaps latitude is more of the key?

Rather than destinations, I think what I'm looking for is the formula of how much sun, and especially for how long. For instance: Does a weekend do the trick for some people, or does it generally need to be more like a week? Does a longer trip have a longer "bounce"?

We did try a Vegas weekend last year, but it was surprisingly chilly and windy and we ended up in casinos most of the time, so that didn't really have the intended effect, although it did relieve my husband of some pesky poker money.
posted by bunji at 8:27 AM on November 5, 2010

I've heard It's also partly to do with our latitude. If you're too far north, in winter the sun just isn't strong enough for your body to manufacture vitamin D, even if you're able to be out in in for ages.

Here's a map with the magic vitamin D latitude marked. You'll want to visit Texas, Florida, the gulf states, southern CA, etc.
posted by ErikaB at 8:50 AM on November 5, 2010

My husband suffers from mild SAD, and he found that just commuting by bicycle gave him enough outdoor exposure, as long as one leg of his commute was during "daylight" hours. Before that, we took a trip to Hawaii for a week one year, and found that the bounce was depressingly short-lived. I think you're best off trying to increase your light consumption at home, while also putting in a couple weekends in Palm Springs or something.

(helpful tip: the Pacific Science Center has a butterfly exhibit in which it is 85 degrees and sunny year round. You can go there and bask.)
posted by KathrynT at 11:36 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is late, but I visited Austin, TX in January a few years ago, and it did amazing things for my head and heart. Same thing with San Francisco in January.

I also had my yearly physical a couple of weeks ago, and I mentioned the SAD coming in something fierce. I got tested for a Vitamin D Deficiency, and sure enough, I have one. So now I take a prescription supplement of 50,000 iu twice a week to bring my D levels back to normal. That also may be an option to look at.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:34 PM on November 28, 2010

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