Morning Show Insider: Don’t Catch Cabin Fever

What Meteorologist Paul Gross does to avoid winter blues

Paul Gross and his bowling buddies
Paul Gross and his bowling buddies

DETROITPaul Gross: By my count, we really haven’t seen any sunshine since last Thursday…that’s six days ago. And that has a lot of people feeling down. Not “imaginary” down, but truly physically down. Some people call it cabin fever, but there’s actually a medical term for it: seasonal affective disorder (SAD…what an appropriate acronym). While symptoms may vary from person to person, most of us know them: fatigue and less energy, inability to focus and stay on task, and more binge eating , which then leads to gaining a few pounds, which then makes us even sadder. It’s a true downward spiral. But there IS hope! I’ll get to that in a moment.

While the exact causes of SAD vary based upon who you ask, the general feeling is that diminished sunshine is one of the root causes, which causes hormonal changes in the brain (chiefly, melatonin). Not only do we have six hours less daylight in mid-winter than mid-summer, more clouds in winter means even less sun for us to enjoy. And even when we do get sun, the winter sun’s low angle in the sky means that it’s rays are much weaker than they are in the summer. If I was given a dollar every time somebody said to me “I don’t care about the snow and cold…I could handle winter if there was just more sunshine,” I’d be so wealthy that I’d buy the jet stream and give us sunnier winters. But I’m not financially able to do that, so we have to look at other things to do to cope.

I am not a doctor, so I will not discuss any medication here (obviously, those diagnosed with clinical depression and other related conditions need to discuss this with their doctor). But, in my opinion, coping with SAD can be accomplished in other ways, and many people find success this way.

First and foremost, you CAN increase the amount of light you get to compensate for the diminished sunshine. Personally, I try to keep rooms and my work space as bright as possible. In fact, some people buy special lamps for their desk at work. And when we do get some sunshine, get outside and bask in that sunlight. I know that it’s sometimes quite cold, but brave the cold and get out in that sun whenever you can. At the bare minimum, keep the drapes and blinds open (especially on the south side of the house) to let as much light in as possible.

Something else I do that really helps is put super-extra focus on eating healthy and making sure to exercise. While my workouts are still focused on physical therapy exercises for my surgically repaired right shoulder following last summer’s surgery, I have transitioned to some strengthening exercises, and I really go at it and pound those weights. I feel SO much better after a good workout. Remember that a good workout releases endorphins in the brain which, in my opinion, counteracts the melatonin changes that make us feel so more lethargic in winter.

Paul Gross

Another thing I do is make sure not to miss doing those things that give me the most happiness. Seeing family and friends is Job #1. In fact, I have so many close friends on my Thursday night bowling league that, even though I’m now working the early morning shift, I will not give that up…it’s one of those things that gets me through the winter. I love working on a good project at home, so if there’s something that needs to be done around the house, I’m all over it. Another thing I’m looking forward to doing over the next couple of months is polishing some of the Petoskey stones I’ve found up north over the years. I bought a tumbler last year, but wasn’t able to start this due to my shoulder surgery (the tumbler and bins with rocks in them were too heavy for me to carry). I could go on and on, but think about those things that you enjoy and, wherever possible, do them! In fact, once my shoulder is back to 100%, something I’d love to do is learn how to cross country ski. Take that, Winter!

One final thing: consider doing some volunteer work. There are so many special charitable organizations that can use some volunteer help. Whether it’s helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, volunteering at a school or hospital, helping out in an organization’s office or answering the phones, knowing that you are making a difference in the life of somebody who is much worse off than you adds a ton of sunshine into YOUR life.

Paul Gross

Bottom line: don’t let winter get the best of you. Take charge, grab the bull by the horns, and show this cloudy season who’s boss. You got this…

Here’s what we’re working on for Thursday, January 30th on Local 4 News Today --

All Morning – Watching the Weekend

Paul Gross: It’ll be mostly cloudy on Thursday…we could potential see a few breaks of sun. Highs in the mid 30s (1 to 2 degrees Celsius). Mostly cloudy Thursday night, with lows in the mid to upper 20s (1 to 2 degrees Celsius).

As we meteorologists would expect with a system still way out over the Pacific, the computer models are changing daily with their handling of the weekend weather system scheduled to cross the area on Saturday. It still appears the snow showers or light snow is possible on Saturday.

  • Get the full forecast here

Our Kim DeGiulio will also be keeping an eye on the roads all morning.

  • Check traffic conditions in your neighborhood here

All Morning - State of the State Recap

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her second State of the State address Tuesday night. We’ll have a recap of what she talks about and reaction to her plan for our state.

6:40 a.m. - Help Me Hank: Super Bowl Warning

A warning just in time for the Super Bowl. Help Me Hank will reveal the $5 safety product you should have in any room with a TV.


Today’s Trivia Retake

Every weekday morning at 6 a.m., we ask you a trivia question on Local 4 for a chance to win a prize.

  • Wednesday Question: Super Bowl XVI was played at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982. Who won the MVP award?
  • Answer: Joe Montana, 49ers quarterback
  • Be sure to watch daily at 6 a.m. and click this link to enter for a chance to win.

National Days: January 30th

  • Croissant Day

History Highlights: January 30th

  • In 1948, Indian political and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, 78, was shot and killed in New Delhi by Nathuram, a Hindu extremist. (Godse and a co-conspirator were later executed.)
  • In 1962, two members of “The Flying Wallendas” high-wire act were killed when their seven-person pyramid collapsed during a performance at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit.
  • In 1969, The Beatles staged an impromptu concert atop Apple headquarters in London; it was the group’s last public performance.
  • In 1973, the rock group KISS performed its first show at a club in Queens, N.Y.
  • In 1981, an estimated 2 million New Yorkers turned out for a ticker-tape parade honoring the American hostages freed from Iran.
  • In 1993, Los Angeles inaugurated its Metro Red Line, the city’s first modern subway.

Celebrity Birthdays: January 30th

Celebrating a birthday Thursday? Submit a Sunshine Award here and we could say your name on Local 4 News Today during our 6 a.m. show.

Here’s who you’re sharing a birthday with –

  • Actor Gene Hackman is 90.
  • Actress Vanessa Redgrave is 83.
  • Country singer Jeanne Pruett is 83.
  • Musician Phil Collins is 69.
  • Singer Jody Watley is 61.
  • Country singer Tammy Cochran is 48.
  • Actor Christian Bale is 46.
  • Singer Josh Kelley is 40.

Local 4 News Today links

About the Authors:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.

Matt is the Executive Producer for Local 4 News Today. He's a graduate of Wayne State University and has been with Local 4 for more than a decade.