It’s been over a decade since our family made its way out west, leaving our Indiana home, and making Oklahoma City, OK our new city of residence. What we didn’t know then, and have come to know since, is Oklahoma City is a much sunnier city than Indianapolis, IN. In a recent poll, Oklahoma City comes in with 68% rating of possible daily sunshine with Indianapolis a rating of 55% possible daily sunshine.
You might not think about it, but sunshine is especially important during the winter season when we also need to keep up our daily doses of Vitamin D-- even when the sun may not be as readily available as it was in summertime. In a recent article, America’s Sunniest Cities, here are a few of the best & worst cities for daily sunshine averages:
The Top 5 sunniest cities in the US:
Phoenix, AZ 85.80 % annual sunshine (average % possible)
Tucson, AZ 85.70 %
Las Vegas NV 84.80 %
El Paso, TX 83.70 %
Reno, NV 81.50 %
There’s a reason why so many people migrate to Arizona and don’t fly back for the winter. Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff are all in the top 25 sunniest cities in the US, and Phoenix ranks #1 with an annual sunshine rate of 85.8%. On average, the West Coast region of the US is sunnier than both the Midwest and the East Coast. A total of 21 of the top 25 sunniest cities are on the Pacific side of things, and that rises to 22 if you count Kahului, Hawaii, which is like the West Coast’s cool cousin that lives just outside of the neighborhood.
The Lowest 5 sunniest cities in the US:
Quillayute, WA 32.20 % annual sunshine (average % possible)
Mt. Washington, NH 32.40 %
Juneau, AR 33.20 %
Hilo, HI 41.20 %
Nome, AK 42.30 %
We’re not surprised to see some notoriously rain-ridden cities included on the least sunny list. Places like Seattle, Washington, and Anchorage, Alaska are absolutely gorgeous, but even for those that love the rain, the overcast days can leave you in a daze if you go too long without seeing the sun.¹
This winter, if you’re feeling the effects of lack-of-sunshine, be sure to check out the entire list of the sunniest cities in the US, and make a planned get-a-way for some much needed sun, fun & Vitamin D: https://www.move.org/sunniest-cities-america/
In reading, for this week’s blog, I was also surprised to read that there is actually a condition brought on by the changing of the seasons and the decrease in daylight and sunshine. In a Mayo Clinic article, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is described as a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.
In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:
Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having low energy
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Note: it's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.²
A Harvard Health Publishing article, Shining a Light on Winter Depression, suggests the most common drugs used to treat SAD are antidepressants. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) primarily increases levels of dopamine, while selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) increase mostly serotonin levels.
If medication is not for you, or you want to avoid drugs because of possible side effects, then light therapy may be a better option. The idea behind light therapy is to replace the missing sunshine with artificial light.
Light therapy uses light boxes that produce a bright white light. As far as your brain is concerned, artificial light works just like natural sunlight. Even if you don't yet have the clinical signs and symptoms of SAD, using light therapy during the winter may help prevent it.
Here are some tips for finding the right artificial light source:
Get enough exposure. Your light box should have 10,000 lux exposure. ("Lux" is a measure of light intensity.) A bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more.
Don't stare. Keep your eyes open, but don't look directly at the light. Keep the box in front of you or just off to the side and about a foot away.
Get enough time. You should absorb light for about 30 minutes a day. You don't have to do it all at once, either.
Begin in the morning. Try to get in some light time before 10 a.m.
Light therapy is relatively safe, although there can be some minor, temporary side effects like headaches and irritability. As days become longer and sunnier, you will use light therapy less often, or may even stop during the spring and summer except for the occasional cloudy weeks.³
Not only is daylight/sunlight a consideration in the winter season, but our activity level, as well! There’s no reason you need to take a break from physical activity when the temperature drops. In fact, exercising in cooler weather has some distinct advantages over working out in warmer weather.
The American Heart Association offers these tips for working out in the cold of winter.
No heat and humidity to deal with. Winter’s chill might even make you feel awake and invigorated.
You may be able to work out longer in cold weather—which means you can burn even more calories.
It’s a great way to take in the sunlight (in small doses). Not only can light improve many people’s moods, it also helps you get some vitamin D.
Exercise boosts your immunity during cold and flu season. Just a few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.⁴
This Winter give these outdoor activities a try:
Brisk walking or hiking
Jogging or running
Lastly, February is also the month of love! It’s the week of Valentine’s Day and across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and where did these traditions come from?
One widely held story suggests that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement.
Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and—most importantly—romantic figure.⁵
Valentine’s Day by the numbers, suggest that Americans expect to spend an average of $142 on a Valentine's Day present for their significant other this year. That's according to a survey from Compare Cards, which polled over 1,000 in the U.S. about their Valentine's Day spending expectations.
And if you’re looking for that perfect gift for your loved one, children or grandchildren, let me suggest Conizo’s very own Lovebox. Sandi & I have given them to all the Grands and we are having a blast sending daily messages, pictures, and hearts…even in full color!
See the Conizo link and you can send messages from your heart to family, friends, and loved ones – anytime, anywhere in the world – with this modern take on classic communication.⁶
Well this week we shed a little sunshine on our spirit, mind & body focus, and even have a few tips for your winter workout! Be sure to do something sweet for your Valentine this week, and do remember to do something every day for your spirit, mind & body as that’s the simplest way to live a wellness lifestyle.
Remember at Conizo, we seek to be the leading innovator and provider of intergenerational experiences, resources, products and services because we believe that the wisdom of one generation can intersect with the hope of another. And this winter, do let the sunshine in!
Thanks for stopping by…Live Life Well!
Here are the Best and Worst Cities for Endless Sunshine, Trevor Wheelwright, January 27, 2020, https://www.move.org/sunniest-cities-america/
Seasonal Affective Disorder, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
American Heart Association, How to Stay Active in Cold Weather, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/how-to-stay-active-in-cold-weather
History, History of Valentine’s Day, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2