Solstice is the time of year when, in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is farthest south of the equator by December 22 or 23. In contrast, it is farthest of the north of the equator by June 20 or 21. Simply put, the sun is closest to us during the summer months and farthest away during the winter months. This is why during the time of December 22 or 23, we experience the shortest day and longest night. There is something to learn from this annual awesome event.
Serotonin plays a major role in our emotional state. Less serotonin produced by the brain results in sadness or depression. Studies have shown that during winter months there is less serotonin produced by the brain which means less sunshine resulting in less serotonin. Serotonin also produces melatonin which is a chemical in our body that helps us sleep. There are many who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is basically the experience of sadness or depression during the winter season. Treatment for this disorder often includes sun lamps, more exercise, and vitamin D supplements for those with low vitamin D levels.
Although Christmas time is a festive time of year for many, it can be a very sad experience for others, not only because of unfortunate circumstances, but also because of less sunshine. Thus, the solstice experience in December can represent a dark experience even during the most festive time of year. Yet, it is a transition from the least light to a gradual progression into the most sunlight around June 23. Many of us have endured this transition for many of the years of our physical existence. Yet perhaps not many of us have experienced the spiritual solstice, sometimes called the dark night of the soul. This can be experienced on a perfect summer day when all seems to be well around us, but there is a deep sadness that seems to get deeper instead of a mere passing experience.
Fortunately, even this type of winter solstice can be expected to eventually pass just as we expect the days to become longer resulting in more sunshine and increased serotonin in our brain. Therefore, whether you are experiencing SAD or a dark night of the soul, no that this too will pass. Eventually, the darkness will give way to light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Sometimes, we have to wait for the light to come, but it will come.
However, waiting for our situation or feelings to improve can be difficult. For some, it may seem impossible that things will get better. Consequently, when we think about our past, if we’re honest and really pay attention, we can see how dark experiences became brighter. These are memories to hang on to because they help to increase our hope during current difficult experiences.
Waiting for the “light” to come does not mean being idle. It could mean more exercise, a sunlamp, or vitamin D supplements. It could also mean reaching out to friends, a therapist, and others who are trusted to help you bear your burden until it becomes lighter and more bearable. Then, perhaps, you can go and help someone else to bear their burden. It is important to remember that the light will eventually overcome the darkness, again.