Darkest Time of the Year

This is the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere where we live. The sun sets early every evening as we move toward the Winter Solstice. After adjusting to Daylight Savings Time and turning clocks back, we are faced with shorter days and longer nights. Shortly after 4:00 pm, I’m switching on the lights. Google tells me that the earliest sunsets of 2022 will happen in our city in SouthWestern Ontario on December 8.

leafless tree on snow covered ground during daytime
The darkest time of the year — photo courtesy of Peter Law on Unsplash

It’s interesting to know that sunsets happen earlier and earlier in December.  The time of sunset does not correlate with the date of the Solstice.  We experience the shortest day of the year on the date of the Solstice but that also involves the time of sunrise!  Later sunrises happen after the Solstice in late December or early January.  I’m not an early riser so I don’t track sunrise time but I certainly notice the early sunsets.

Coping with Early Darkness

Some people swear by bright light therapy.  Light therapy helps those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Others use bright lights to improve mood. Lightboxes purportedly give the same effect as time spent in bright sunshine.

Personally, I prefer spending time outdoors to absorb natural light, even when the sun is hidden by grey clouds. Before my recent surgery, I took a daily walk on a nearby wooded trail.  While I’m recovering I must satisfy myself with a brief jaunt on the street in front of our house in the company of my walker!

Taking Vitamin D every day to replace the vitamins naturally absorbed from sunlight also helps.  Vitamin D improves energy levels plus combats fatigue and low mood.

The darkest time of year is more tolerable because so many choose to decorate their homes with holiday lighting. On our street, the first Christmas lights pop up by mid-November.  Many homes are professionally decorated creating beautiful light shows with rooflines, trees and shrubs awash in glimmering lights. Thankfully many homes stay alight until late January. What a wonderful way to spread cheer during this dark time of year!

Hygge Mindset to Cope with Darkness

A popular strategy for coping with the dark days involves taking a lesson from the Danes and practising Hygge, the state of slowing down and appreciating a culture of coziness. http://www.postworksavvy.com/embracing-hygge-to-enjoy-winter/

Denmark and other Nordic countries experience high levels of happiness and life satisfaction despite the often unforgiving climate with long dark winter days.  Soft warm clothing, evenings in front of the fireplace, comfort foods, and candlelight are used to create a cozy ambience.  Small gatherings socializing with friends provide fun and laughter.

In our home, we’re creating the Canadian version of hygge. We decorated both Christmas trees earlier than usual to allow us to enjoy twinkling lights. We light candles in the evening to create a warm and relaxing atmosphere. Lighted garlands decorate the mantels. Cozy blankets and afghans are out of storage and lie folded on couches and chairs ready for cocooning in front of a fireplace.

Brightening the darkness of winter takes determination. When days are short and night comes early, I keep a check on my attitude and mood.  If the sun bursts through, I rush to sit in a window to absorb the bright sunlight for as long as it lasts.  And, I remember those precious few minutes of sunshine when it’s 4:00 pm and I’m turning on lights as another dark evening descends.

Thanks for reading my post.  I hope everyone finds their own way to cope with the darkest time of the year.



8 Replies to “Darkest Time of the Year”

  1. Until the pandemic struck, I confess we were dealing with the darkness by running away from it and heading in various southerly directions by long haul flight. Just a couple of weeks away from the cold and long nights in late November/early December broke up the winter and helped us get through it.

    1. Like you, I loved those quick jaunts to the sun. Our favourite spots were in the Caribbean or Florida. The bonus was coming back with a tan for Christmas parties. Lots of memories to keep us going!

  2. Jeanette, congratulations on getting a new hip. Keep up the exercises to the best of your ability and you will be richly rewarded with new mobility and a lack of ability to now tell when it will rain.

    1. I’m looking forward to a complete recovery and, once again, walking my 10,000 steps each day!

  3. Rikie Schieven says: Reply

    Thanks Jeannette. I also feel better at this time of year by volunteering at my favourite music venue. Listening to all those wonderful concerts and being among happy people enjoying their evening is always a mood booster.

    1. Rikie, Thanks for mentioning music as another coping strategy. I hope you get some great volunteer gigs and hear the best of seasonal music. Enjoy!

  4. We are definitely practicing Hygge. Happy cosy Christmas season to you. Be careful out there. And thank you for the new information (for me) about sunset times vs Solstice date.

    1. Until I researched a few facts for this post I always supposed that the sunrise and sunset happened at the same time when the Solstice occurred. This just proves that we never stop learning. All the best to you and your family!

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