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12/26 Editorials

*Charitable needs are a year-round affair*Buck up: Longer days are (slowly) coming * Some words for thought

Charitable needs are

a year-round affair

Christmas has come and gone. Thanks to the hard work of a number of groups in and around Polk County, the holiday was a little more joyous for those less fortunate.

But Christmastime makes up just a small portion of the 365 days on the calendar, and the need exists year-round for us to help those organizations that help the needy on a daily basis.

Be sure that directors at a number of charitable organizations in the region are thinking today how they wished the season of giving lasted for more than just a few weeks around Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Just because we do not see that bell ringer outside the doors of a local retailer doesn't mean that the Salvation Army doesn't need our donations throughout the year. Area food banks that struggled to fill the ever-increasing demand of the holiday season now have empty shelves that need to be restocked with nonperishable items for the next wave of demand - which starts immediately.

By nature, people seem most charitable during the Christmas holiday season or following a natural disaster like hurricane Katrina or, more recently and closer to home, the flooding which ravaged portions of Northwest Oregon and communities like Vernonia and Tillamook.

It shouldn't take a holiday or a catastrophic event to bring out the best in people. The need exists throughout the year. Please do your part.

* * *

Buck up: Longer days

are (slowly) coming

As this issue of the Itemizer-Observer goes to press, daylight lovers have crossed the Great Divide.

The winter solstice (also known as the "shortest day of the year") is behind us. Although the season's coldest days are yet to come, at least the days are getting longer.

Or, as one observer we know likes to say, "My mood gets better by micro-minutes every day."

While it's easy to joke about, depression at this time of year is no laughing matter. Cold nights, colder mornings and the stress of the holidays take a toll. Sunshine addicts seldom see rays, and green thumbs have no gardens to tend.

The hardest-hit are those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects as many as 20 million Americans, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms are a marked decrease in energy and ambition, inability to sleep through the night, oversleeping in the morning, overeating, and social withdrawal.

Granted, most of us eat too many goodies during the holidays and don't want to get out of bed on freezing winter mornings. But if it goes beyond that - perhaps well beyond that - seeking medical advice is advised.

SAD is found in all age groups, and affects women more often than men. It is prevalent in areas near the earth's poles, where the majority of winter hours are spent in darkness.

Here in the Willamette Valley, the nine or 10 hours of daylight we get these days seem like much less because we rise in the dark and go home from work in the dark. When a treasured day off comes along, it's more than likely rainy and gloomy.

There are some things a person can do to battle seasonal depression. Increasing one's exposure to light is important, and that means outdoor and indoor light. Studies seem to show that as little as 10 minutes a day, every day, outdoors provides a major benefit to one's well-being - even if it's overcast or rainy and that time is spent under an umbrella or an awning.

Indoors, increased lighting in rooms is advised. Various brands of "natural," or full-spectrum, bulbs are on the market, and users say they are well worth the extra cost. Even just turning on extra standard lamps helps. And note this fact: simply unplugging your TV when you're not home will save enough electricity to power those extra lights.

Like Christmas lights? Why not leave some up in your reading room? Who needs a reason? (But if you do, the Chinese New Year celebration begins Feb. 7.)

Meanwhile, know that it could be much worse. Google "Barrow Sea Ice Web Cam" and look at the scenery in northernmost Alaska. It doesn't matter what hour you visit - it'll be the same: dark.

* * *

Some words for thought

Christmas was once a time when we would show reverence and gratitude for the blessings with which life has graced us but has now become a feast of consumption. We use plastic to buy more plastic that creates ever more CO2 in its production and transportation to your living rooms and again when it is disposed of and transported back to the landfill.

All of us are a long way from perfect, and there is no man alive with a clear enough conscience to point his finger at someone else and say, "I am doing enough but you are not."

But if in the dark winter nights ahead you can turn off the telly and take the time to reflect, that will be a start. And one can read a few of the millions of good books that have been written and which trees have already accommodated.

-From a UK environmental blog

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