Blog#58: Winter Blues? Holistic Medicine Can Help!
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression which occurs either in spring/summer, when it is warmer and there are a lot of allergens in the air, such as pollen and mold, or else during fall/winter, when there is less light than at other times of the year. Most of us have felt tired or a bit sad on a cold, grey day when we are stuck at home due to the snow and we can’t quite get warm enough, no matter how we try. Take that feeling and multiply it by five or ten times, imagine those feelings extending over much of the winter, and we can have an idea of what SAD in the cold weather feels like. Other forms of depression may also feel somewhat similar to SAD, but are not anchored around a season.
SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and in younger rather than older people, as well as in people who live far from the equator, and in those who have a history of another type of depression. Since seasonal affective disorder symptoms tend to be as severe in summer as in winter, it makes sense to look for a cause other than insufficient sunlight. In my opinion, based on the cases of SAD I have seen and treated, and due to my own experience of SAD in the summer months for three years, (but thankfully, not for many years, now) seasonal affective disorder is most likely due to the body being over-stressed, run down, and consequently unable to deal well with hormonal swings which may accompany weather changes. Certain issues, such as eating foods that are heavy, rich or fatty, feeling overwhelmed emotionally, especially regarding anger, and having a liver which has a hard time dealing with the body’s and the environment’s toxicity, will predispose a person to warm weather SAD. Other issues, like over-expending one’s energy, having low blood sugar, poor circulation, and having a diet which does not supply sufficient warming foods and herbs, will predispose a person to cold weather SAD.
In both cases, due in part to lifestyle and diet, the body is not resilient enough to adjust to specific seasonal changes. Here are some holistic, alternative ways to help us face winter SAD symptoms, and for that matter, all mild to moderate winter depression. These suggestions can also help with severe depression, but then prescription medication may be appropriate in addition to these holistic approaches.
Replace light bulbs at home to full spectrum bulbs, and spend time each day in front of a therapeutic light box.
Eat plenty of fresh, high quality fruit and vegetables, as well as beans, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts. If you are not vegetarian, make sure, in addition, to eat some grass-fed, organically raised, and/or wild-caught animals. High quality eggs and dairy products are also recommended for those who are not vegan.
Take a good multivitamin along with high-quality B complex vitamins, or else take a well-balanced herbal supplement that supports the energy level.
Make sure to consume enough Omega 3 fatty acids, either in supplement form or in the diet (ie Flax seed oil and wild-caught salmon).
Exercise regularly – preferably at least 30 minutes per day, walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, sports, weight and resistance training, and Pilates, for example.
Engage in positive self-talk, self-hypnosis, meditation, or a similar method to help keep the mind positive.
Connect socially with positive friends and/or family on a regular basis.
Maintain a sense of purpose through work, volunteer activities, hobbies, and developing talents and interests.
Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids each day.
Make sure to get outside and breathe the (hopefully) fresh air.
Do inspirational things on a regular basis, at least weekly, such as going for a walk in a forest preserve, going to an art gallery, or listening to some favorite music.
Consult a holistic health practitioner for supportive acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage treatment.
See a supportive therapist or counselor for some talk sessions.
Use an appropriate flower essence remedy regularly.
Use St John’s Wort, an herbal anti-depressant. If using prescription anti-depressants, check for chemical interactions.
Practice an energizing, balancing Qi Gong form daily.
This month’s blog offer is a simple Qi Gong exercise, learned from Qi Gong master David Coon, that may be helpful in warming the body, increasing energy reserves, balancing the immune and endocrine systems, and elevating the spirit when done on a regular basis, over time. It is designed to help strengthen and rejuvenate the thymus gland and help balance the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Instructions: stand or sit with good posture, spine straight, body and mind relaxed. Place the palm of one hand horizontally on the midline of the upper chest, overlapping the clavicles and also positioned below the clavicles, on the sternum (breast bone). Place the palm of the other hand over the back of the first hand. Close the eyes and breathe in a relaxed manner, imagining a small ball of sunlight slowly growing larger and brighter under the hands. Imagine and gradually feel the sunlight spread throughout the body. Feel the hands growing warm, eventually, even hot. Do this to start with for perhaps three minutes, and then longer. Eventually, even one hour would not be too long for this particular exercise. For best results, do this exercise daily. Feel free to contact me with any questions.