Lifting Seasonal Depression

Spring can be a very uneasy time for the human psyche. Patterns of
sleep and energy have a tendency to shift back and forth with
uncertainty. Mood swings from high to low, changes in eating
patterns, fluctuating temperatures outside and the urge to "run away
from it all" add stress to the mind and body and tend to occur when
there are equal parts of both daylight and darkness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Anger is the emotion associated with
Spring, and for good reason. Seasonal studies done at the National
Institute of Mental Health in Maryland have shown, dramatic mood
changes coincide with changes from the darkness of Winter to the
extended light of Spring.

Melatonin is a hormone in our body that helps to regulate our moods
and energy. With increased light, melatonin decreases in our body.
Decreased melatonin means higher and lower levels of mood and energy.
Tempers can flare rapidly triggered by rapid mood changes. Faster
changes increase good and bad impulse behavior.

We move from hibernation to growth in less than weeks. Increased mood
and energy fluctuation brings with it lust, lethargy and love!
According to the World Health Organization, conception is highest in
April and May. Romance blooms. Energies that have been suppressed for
months have a tendency to now move to the surface, equivalent to the
growth of Spring flowers bursting forth.

The end of Winter brings an end to isolation and 'Winter Blues',
brought about by lack of sunlight and cold weather. But, as Spring
comes and wanes into Summer, some people will find their 'blues' or
depression unchanged. Then, even stronger feeling of hopelessness
follow. The US Center for Disease Control found that between 1969 and
1999, suicides were seasonal. Findings showed that feelings of
suicide are above average all Spring and below average in Winter.
This is contrary to beliefs that suicides are the highest during the
Christmas holidays. The British Journal of Psychiatry agrees. They
report that the pre-summer peak in suicides reflect the hope among
the unhappy and lonely who seek change with Spring, but often feel no
different as the Summer draws near.

For some people, the transition from Summer into Fall is a difficult
time. Knowing that the warmth of summer is gone, the transition from
hot to cold and from more light to less light can be difficult to let
go of.

Ways To Boost Your Mood

1. Listen to Uplifting Music!

Music can inspire! Some music is designed to have a positive and
reaffirming effect on emotions and mental clarity. Singing along to a
familiar song or showtune might be all you need. Music is a magical
medium and a very powerful tool. Music can delight all the senses and
inspire every fiber of our being. Music has the power to soothe and
relax, bring us comfort and embracing joy! Music subtly bypasses the
intellectual stimulus in the brain and moves directly to our
subconscious. There is music for every mood and for every occasion.
Music Therapy is incorporated in a number of areas of medicine.

2. Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy has been clinically shown to ease stress and improve
moods. Essential oils of plant, fruit, and flower essences are
created to center and enhance the body and mind in order to help us
in preventative measures, as well as, an effective cure for many
illnesses. Scents can induce an amazing power as they influence our
moods. Our sense of smell is the most direct path to our emotions.
This is the principle behind the ancient art of aromatherapy.

3. Get A Massage

Massage Therapy has been proven to reduce anxiety and sadness and to
lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Massage Therapy not only treats
those parts of you which are a problem, but also affects the whole of
your metabolism through normalizing your circulatory, muscular and
nervous systems and their interdependent functioning.

4. Enjoy Good Fat

Hormones that regulate Serotonin, our bodies' main mood-boosting
chemical, are stimulated by fat consumption. Before reaching for a
piece of cake or a cookie, try a piece of salmon. Not all fats are
created equal and you should AVOID saturated fats. Instead, eat foods
containing 'good fats' such as fish, nuts and olive oil. These foods
help with depression and low self esteem by boosting Serotonin.

5. Get Your Vitamin D

Serotonin is affected by Vitamin D. Studies have shown that
consumption Vitamin D makes people feel better. Particularly those
who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

6. Practice Yoga Therapy

Yoga Therapy is the ancient exercise from India, which has been shown
to boost energy, release tension and stress, and help with
depression, anger and fatigue. Practicing yoga is associated with
establishing harmony,equanimity, balance.

7. Make Humor and Laughter Daily Medicine

Laughter reduces muscle tension. This muscle relaxation and the
easing of psychological tension that accompanies it, is the main goal
of pain and stress management. This certainly accounts for the stress-
reducing power of humor. I often have patients say to me, "well how
can I laugh if I'm depressed?" Rediscovering your sense of humor is
the end result of your desire to feel better. It is your willingness
to look for it. This proactive search for humor is the magical
ingredient. The attempted approach to "look for humor in any
situation" is a step in the "light" direction.

8. Eat Breakfast

Studies have shown that eating breakfast is associated with greater
calmness and less stress. It also improves alertness, which can help
your memory and ability to learn. Eating fiber at breakfast is best.
Eating fiber in the morning allows for less emotional distress, more
energy and more mental alertness!

9. Move!

Exercise is the best medicine for anxiety and depression. It not only
keep the body physically and mentally fit but also provides
recreation and mental relaxation. It is nature's best tranquilizer.
Exercise produces chemical and psychological changes that improves
your mental health. It changes the levels of hormones in blood and
may elevate your beta-endorphins (mood-affecting brain chemicals).
Exercise may also improve the function of the autonomic nervous
system. Exercise also gives a feeling of accomplishment and thus
reduces the sense of helplessness.

10. Meditation

Meditation works wonders. Every 5 to 10 minutes spent centering
yourself in stillness will have positive effects. Meditation improves
over all well being. Meditation helps us live a healthier, less
stressful life. The physical and psychological benefits are wonderful
and many people meditate only for those reasons. The practice of
meditation helps us temporarily let the physical world go so that we
can begin to see ourselves as we truly are.

Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit

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