By Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-Founder and Acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center
There is no denying that it is winter now with snowfall becoming a more regular occurrence and temperatures hovering in the single digits. With winter, some of us get the “winter blues”. Sometimes, those blues are a deeper problem called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD can be debilitating during these long, cold New Hampshire months. This article will attempt to describe what SAD is and explain some suggestions for dealing with it and preventing it from occurring.
During the winter, approximately 50% of Americans, maybe even you, experience a depression ranging in severity and symptoms. Some of these symptoms could be decreased energy, body weight fluctuations, cravings for carbohydrates, changes in sleep patterns, trouble with concentration, and an increased intensity of emotions (especially irritation and sadness.) For those who already experience depression throughout the year, these symptoms can seem unbearable. Of course, these symptoms can bring about other symptoms such as more aches and pains and a decreased immunity. Many pains that we do not think about on a regular basis suddenly become more noticeable when we experience depression or a decrease in energy. This also holds true for our susceptibility of getting sick.
Western medicine explains that SAD occurs because of our decreased exposure to sunlight. Our serotonin levels drop when we are not regularly exposed to sunlight, like we are in the warmer months. Serotonin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating our moods. Chinese medicine says that the Qi, or life force energy, in the Liver meridian becomes stagnant.
Whichever way you look at it, there are things that you can do to help yourself. Some things that you can do for yourself to lift your mood are meditate, use uplifting essential oils (sage, bergamot, sandalwood, mandarin, lemongrass, and grapefruit), exercise (20-30 minutes a day), quit smoking, and visit your local acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine where hair-thin needles are strategically inserted just under the skin to promote the flow of Qi throughout the body. The single most common thing that my patients tell me they experience during an acupuncture treatment is a distinct calming of the mind. Under the regular care of a licensed acupuncturist, you can expect to increase energy, calm your moods, fight off illness more efficiently, sleep more regularly, reduce cravings(food, drugs, and alcohol), digest your food more efficiently, and gain an overall balance in your body, mind, and spirit. Regular care is 1 to 3 acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Depression is not something to take lightly. If you experiences deep bouts of depression, do not hesitate to seek out professional psychiatric help. I hope you find this information helpful and I hope that you try some of the tips listed earlier in this article if you know yourself to become a little down during the winter.