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Stargazing and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Unlocking The Healing Power of The Night Sky



Have you ever found yourself staring up at the night sky, mesmerised by its vast expanse and twinkling stars, feeling humbled by our smallness within it all?


If so... you're not alone.


Stargazing is a timeless practice that has captivated humans for millennia. Shakespeare saw the same stars in the same patterns we do, as did Galileo, Cleopatra, and the first Homo sapiens to look up at the night sky in curiosity. To be beneath a night sky clear of light pollution is to witness something that every human throughout history has seen - it is our common heritage. Our fascination with the night sky has shaped societies, cultures, religions, and science, and the fact that we have so often looked up to the night sky in our search for meaning is one of the hallmarks of our humanity.


But have you ever stopped to consider the impact that this simple act could have on your mental well-being? Despite the night sky being one of our most enduring muses, we know surprisingly little about how it affects us on a personal level.


In this article, I explore the unique experiences when gazing up at the night sky and delve into the potential benefits it could offer, during the dark winter months when so many feel the effects of the changing seasons.



Losing the Dark: The Cost of Light Pollution


In 1994, an earthquake caused a power cut to all electrical lights in LA. Soon after, many anxious residents called emergency services to report a strange giant silver cloud that had appeared above them in the night sky. What they were seeing, for the first time, was an outstretching arm of our home galaxy, The Milky Way.



Over the last one hundred years, we have almost entirely altered all living creatures' exposure to natural light. Today, seeing the stars and a clear night sky is increasingly impossible, as most of us only see an artificial darkness that is fogged with electrical lighting.


The night sky has become a mainly empty and meaningless space.





Many environmentalists and medical researchers now consider light pollution as one of the most pervasive forms of pollution, with adverse side effects on human and wildlife health. In 2012, The American Medical Association officially confirmed that night-time electrical lighting can disrupt and negatively impact human circadian rhythms, disrupting both our physical and mental health.


As our lives become more and more urbanised, we often overlook the significance of the natural world in our quest for mental well-being. However, recent research in the fields of Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology highlights the potential benefits of stargazing as an accessible, sustainable, and powerful eco-therapeutic tool.


Recent research suggests that Stargazing allows us to reconnect with nature and ourselves, offering comfort and familiarity in a world that can sometimes feel isolating and overwhelming. As we engage with the night sky and become more aware of our environment, we can develop a kinship with the stars and a sense of shared humanity with others who have also marvelled at the wonders above. An activity innate to the human experience.



Have you ever looked up at the night sky and felt a sense of wonder and enchantment?


A recent study found that stargazers yearned for the same connection and magic in their day-to-day lives that they were able to experience whilst stargazing. However, they also expressed frustration and helplessness at the realisation of what we've lost through our disconnection from the stars and the natural world at large.

This disenchantment with the universe is not a new concept. In 1918, Philosopher and sociologist Max Weber coined the term "disenchantment" to describe how modern humans experience the universe without any magical or mystical explanations for its existence. This loss of meaning and connection can be related to our changed relationship with the night sky. Today, across the world, we face increasing levels of light pollution and a pervasive disconnection from nature in our modern lives. However, stargazing and the night sky can serve as a portal to a world of awe, wonder, self-reflection, and re-connection.


Astrophysicist and Zen teacher Mark Westmoquette explored the Japanese concept of purposefully spending time in nature to benefit well-being, known as forest bathing. Westmoquette believes that whilst not everyone may have a forest on their doorstep, there is just as much nature in the night sky. Westmoquette coined the term 'star bathing' to describe the de-stressing benefits of spending time under the stars and opening your senses to all the wonders of nocturnal nature. Even with light pollution in the middle of a big city like London, it is usually possible to spot the moon or The Orion's belt constellation.



Incorporating Stargazing into Your Winter Self-Care Routine

A huge part of Seasonal Affective Disorder is often the feeling of loss in our daily lives. Loss of that morning run in the rising sun before work, loss of that moment of wonder as you listen to the birdsong and feel the warmth of the sun on your face during your lunch break, loss of a sense of connection and belonging when you would meet with friends after work in the longer summer evenings.


Stargazing is a simple yet transformative practice that can brighten even the darkest winters. The act of gazing up at the twinkling stars above us is not only accessible but can also be easily integrated into your daily routine, for example in the evening after work or before going to bed, where you may feel in the winter a loss of time for leisurely activities that cultivate joy and awe.


Recent research on stargazing during the long, dark winter months has found that it can profoundly impact mental well-being. Those who took up stargazing during the winter months experienced a boost in their well-being thanks to the solace and wonder that being under the stars provides, a sense of connection, a decrease in loneliness, and a feeling of awe at the nature of a dark sky filled with constellations.


if you're struggling with seasonal affective disorders or just need a little pick-me-up, looking up at the stars may nurture your emotional well-being and help you gain a newfound appreciation for the vast dark skies of winter.



By immersing ourselves in the natural beauty of the night sky, we tap into a source of healing and rejuvenation, nourishing our souls and spirits.


Gazing at the stars can evoke a profound sense of interconnectedness and shared humanity, transcending time and space. By contemplating our place in the vast cosmos, we are reminded of our place in the larger picture of life. People who engage in stargazing often describe it as a comforting and companionable experience, offering a sense of connection even in moments of solitude and loneliness. Moreover, stargazing has been shown to have therapeutic benefits, promoting self-regulation, self-worth, and resilience.


As we become increasingly disconnected from the natural world, it's no wonder we yearn for a bit of enchantment and awe. That's where the stars come in. In a world marked more and more by disconnection and loneliness, stargazing has the power to transport us beyond our mundane concerns, sparking a sense of wonder, mindfulness, and rekindled magic.


If this post resonates with you and how you're feeling, or if you struggle with SAD, you can book a free therapy consultation @ tenderheartstherapy.co.uk or olivia.tenderhearts@gmail.com


















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