When Do The Days Start Getting Longer? The Winter Solstice 2017 Means The Sun Is On Its Way Back

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November may mark the start of the holiday season, but when Daylight Savings Time ends, it also means the sun begins to set in the early evening, when most people are just leaving work or eating dinner. Though this time of year is about all things merry, a lot of people miss the sun during the winter months. But, if you are someone who gets sad (or seasonal affective disorder, SAD) when there’s less sunshine, I have good news for you: The Winter Solstice 2017 means the sun is on its way back, and the days will officially start getting longer once it passes.

The Winter Solstice, considered the first day of winter, is the day of the year with the fewest hours of sunlight. For people in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice usually falls on Dec. 21, and occasionally Dec 22. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated in all over the world since ancient civilizations. Even today, Pagans still commemorate the day with holiday celebration called Yule. Not to mention, the winter solstice was significant to many ancient civilizations; many archaeologists even believe Stonehenge was built as a tribute to the darkest day of the year.

This seasonal event occurs when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun during Earth’s annual orbit around the star. Oppositely, countries and continents in the Southern Hemisphere experience their winter solstice on June 21, or June 22 — which is the summer solstice (aka, the longest day of the year) for the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on where you live, the amount of sunlight you see during the Winter Solstice will vary. In 2016, residents of Key West, FL, saw just over 10 hours of sunlight, while the city of Fairbanks, AK, experienced only 3 hours 42 minutes of sun.

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Despite the fact the darkest day of the calendar year is still around the corner, the winter solstice signifies that days will gradually begin to get brighter. In the six months between the winter and summer solstice, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will start to see a slow increase in earlier sunrises, and later sunsets. But, you probably won’t notice a change in the first couple weeks following the winter solstice: Until Jan. 7, those in the Northern Hemisphere gain a mere minute of sunlight a day right before sunset. However, after that day, two extra minutes of sunshine a day are steadily gained — one minute at sunrise, and one minute at sunset.

Darker days can have a noticeably negative impact on mental health, and some people may be counting the days until the sun is back in full swing. A study published in the American Family Physician reported 4 to 6 percent of American have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a form of seasonal, “winter depression” that’s triggered by shorter days and cold weather. The study also estimated 10 to 20 percent of people are believed to have a milder form of SAD. Moreover, a 2008 study revealed that light deprivation literally causes depression by killing neurotransmitters in the regions of your brain that regulate emotion, pleasure, and cognitive functioning. If you have experience depression during winter, trying a light therapy box or making subtle lifestyle changes could help you cope until it is brighter and warmer outside.

Whether or not you enjoy the dark, winter days, it is important to keep track of the ways the weather will be changing in the following weeks. And if you’re someone who counts down the days to summer, the winter solstice should bring you some comfort that the sun will be making more regular appearances soon. So, mark the winter solstice on your calendar, and get ready for longer days.