Saturday, February 9

Light up my life

My company moved into a spacious new office earlier this month. The contrast between the old building and our new location is stark. Previously we were holed up in a cramped, cluttered space spread over three floors. Small windows let in limited light most days, while the surrounding neighbourhood of industrial lanes, pawnbrokers and imposing rail bridges added to the overall gloom.

Fast forward to our new location; a modern, smart office building with banks of wide, windows flooding the interior with light. We’re located five floors above the traffic, just high enough to provide us with sweeping views across much of London. Wembley stadium stands majestically to the north, while glimpses of the London Eye and Canary Wharf draw comments to the east. Each morning we ride one of two glass-enclosed lifts up the outside of the building to our floor. It’s probably the nicest office I’ve ever worked in.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the old building and the new is my mood. The constant barrage of sunlight throughout the day has been quite a shock. Winter in London has suddenly become less depressing and demoralizing. The light was initially disorienting as it felt so foreign, almost overwhelming. The entire experience has left me thinking there’s some credence to the concept of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

I recall discovering a regular seasonal pattern in my behaviour many years ago. As winter drew to an end I consistently found myself depressed and demotivated. It didn’t matter what was happening in my life, the pattern always persisted. It disappeared when I began traveling more frequently between hemispheres throughout the year. Living in Australia and working in Asia meant that I encountered very limited winter conditions for many years.

Up to 3% of the UK’s population suffers debilitating SAD every winter. A further 20% are said to suffer sub-syndromal SAD. If you’re worried, you can check each day to see if today’s weather is conducive for SAD. Seasonal mood variations are believed to be related to light. Extended periods of darkness and dull light over winter are thought to interfere with normal serotonin or melatonin levels. Exposure to bright lights at specific wavelengths will often improve SAD symptoms.

It comes as no surprise to see the Undergound inundated recently by an advertising campaign for alarm clocks that glow progressively brighter as wake-up time draws closer. While the concept sounds practical, I think I’d prefer an alternative cure. SAD is said to be very rare among people living within 30 degrees of the Equator. Moving to the Bahamas sounds a lot more fun.

Not the Bahamas!

1 comment:

rhonda said...

your new building looks very posh