There was a moment, and I mean about 13 seconds, of sunshine the other day and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. My body reacted, I felt lifted and brighter in my chest, all before my mind knew what was going on. The realisation that a moment of sunshine could impact me so much was joyous and a reminder of the darkness.
I was surprised by my instant happiness to the light as I claim to quite like the winter season and the idea of wintering. A time to go inward, slow down and meander in the dark. Perhaps the combination of lockdown and the Scottish winter (limited daylight and wet for those who don’t know) has made this time of year particularly challenging.
In the cold, short days of winter, the darkness outside seems to correlate with a darkened mood within us; it’s an observation that goes back at least as far as Hippocrates.
According to Maya Kroth, darkness can affect us all, and in surprising ways. Science suggests that darkness can do all kinds of things to the human body and brain: It can make us more likely to lie and cheat, make mistakes at work, and even see things we don’t normally see.
I have been researching different biological rhythms, otherwise known as chronobiology. It examines the effects of time on biological events and internal biological clocks. Physically, without bright morning sunlight to reset it every day, your internal clock will increasingly run out of phase. For most people, that means they get up later and later. This would explain why my 15 year old would rather wake up at 4pm than 8am.
The best part about the darkness is how it helps me look at the light. Your internal clock gets activated when light coming in through the eye stimulates a part of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms. As all of the rhythms are part of chronobiology, it is no wonder how lightness and darkness effects us in so many ways.
What role can you play in creating, bringing and being the light? I’m inspired by my best mate’s 2021 purpose: to bring the light and actively seek out opportunities to bring the light to challenges at work. Knowing that you can create the light and even be the light —well, that is illuminative.
From small adaptations like hygge (the Danish concept of intimate coziness and warmth), to seeking out opportunities at work to be the light, and even courageous acts from having an open, light heart. These acts and moments of light shine even brighter in these especially dark times. Trusting that we all can be a light in so many different ways is hugely comforting.
Here are some superb words about how to find light from darkness by Parker Palmer;
“Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two different ways. There’s the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it’s thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain. Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.”
As always, I would love to hear from you.