Tag Archives: sad

Better Than Before: How Diet Effects Mood with Elizabeth Somer

Elizabeth SomerQuite frankly, with the type of winter we have had so far in New York – and continuing to have, now into March – I sometimes think that only a trip to a Caribbean island will make me feel better! Thoughts of a swim in the warm ocean, lying around the sun-drenched white sand, and having one (or ten) of those drinks with the little umbrellas will undoubtedly do the trick. But obviously most of us can’t hop right on a plane to a tropical island. And, snow and cold aside, why aren’t we enjoying winter, anyway? Sledding, skiing, skating aren’t just for watching during the Olympics! And after all, being Better Than Before is all about living in the moment.

I took my query to Elizabeth Somer, author of the bestselling Eat Your Way to Happiness, and highly sought-after and respected source of nutritional information and lifestyle changes. I was hoping she could share some good news on how to keep in a good mood – not to mention not gain twenty pounds from all those hot chocolates with mini marshmallows – while we wait and wait…and wait, for spring.

JWM: Let’s start with the obvious basic question: Why does our mood often plummet during the winter?

ES: At its foundation, it’s biological. The seasonal drop in sunlight throws brain chemistry out of whack, making some of us more anxious, depressed, and tired this time of year. We snap at the kids, sleep more, crave sweets, and as a result, gain weight.

JWM: Can depression, mood swings, and chronic irritability be symptoms of more serious problems than just winter blues? Other than PMS or menopause, that is.

ES:. Yes, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The winter blues and SAD rest on the same continuum, differing only in their degree of severity. In other words, a person suffering from winter blues might feel grumpy and tired, while someone with SAD suffers serious depression, with feelings of desperation, anxiety, and exhaustion. If your depression interferes with important aspects of your life, such as your job or relationships, or if you have feelings of hopelessness, these are possible symptoms of SAD that should be discussed with a physician.

JWM: Who suffers from it? Other than we confirmed hypochondriacs, of course.

ES: Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans battle the winter blues. The reasons why our moods slip and our appetites take over by mid-winter could be simply that we’re cooped up, bored, and restless; or it could have a deeper cause, resulting from a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and hunger. Whatever the reason, most people have some kind of behavior change in the winter. Children and teens can suffer from the winter blues, too.

JWM: What could be some of the signs?

ES: The main ones are obvious – depression and fatigue that lingers. Or, ask yourself the following: Has your mood plummeted along with the temperature? While you stare forlornly out the window at another bleak, winter day, is your spouse dozing rather than playing with the kids? Do you find yourself power snacking on Skittles by the 5th day of rainstorms. If so, you could be battling winter blues or SAD.

JWM: Are there foods and activities — other than Skittles– that you recommend that can boost our mood in these darkened days?

ES: Absolutely. First of all, you might consider finding more light. If your mood improves while vacationing down South, for example, it’s probably more the sunshine than the trip. [Or the drinks with umbrellas.] The researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, are among those who have linked dark winter skies to low levels of serotonin, which makes some people drowsy and more prone to depression. Ample sunshine hitting the retina of our eyes triggers a cascade of events in the brain that raises serotonin levels. Voila! Moods improve! Up to 80% of SAD and winter blues sufferers report at least some relief when exposed for 30 minutes to 1 1 /2 hours daily to sunlight or a specialized light box that emits light 5- to 20-times brighter than typical indoor light. Check out the internet for a local resource for these lights.

JWM: How about diet? Any suggestions?

ES: Eat Regularly: Don’t attempt to skip breakfast in an effort to cut calories. You’ll overeat later in the day, struggle more with mood swings and fatigue, and battle a weight problem in the long run. Be sure to eat breakfast, but make it light and include some carbohydrates, such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Then have lunch. Something as simple as a sandwich, nonfat milk, and a piece of fruit will fuel your brain, body, and mood.

JWM: One way a lot of us make the cold hours pass better is with something to nibble on. What about snacks?

ES: Snack, but not on sweets. A voracious sweet tooth during the winter months also might stem from low serotonin levels. Chowing down on sweets works temporarily – serotonin levels rise and we feel better. But that high is followed by a crash, setting up a roller coaster of highs and lows that causes overeating and weight gain. Replace these foods with more nutritious sweet treats, such as fresh-sliced kiwi mixed with nonfat strawberry-kiwi yogurt, a half papaya filled with lemon yogurt, fresh fruit layered in a parfait glass and topped with a dollop of low-fat whipped cream, or nonfat milk whipped in a blender with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

JWM: But how about people who have a sweet tooth? As you said, sugar is counter-effective in the long run. What should they do?

ES: One way to sooth your mood and save your waistline is to switch from fatty sweets to high-quality carbs, such as whole grain breads and crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, or starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes. Plan a mid-afternoon all-carb snack, such as half a whole wheat English muffin with jam, 3 fig bars, or drizzle honey over a toasted cinnamon bagel to counteract the desire to eat sweets at this crave-prone time of day. Also include carb-rich foods in your meals, such as pasta primavera or marinara, whole wheat couscous, or yams cut into strips and baked on a cookie sheet to make ‘French fries.’ (Serotonin also improves sleep, so a serotonin-boosting evening snack, such as air-popped popcorn or a scoop of sorbet, will help you sleep better, too!)

JWM: There is a lot that has been written about omega-3 fat DHA elevating your mood. How do you feel about that?

ES: You can definitely boost your spirits by taking either omega-3 fat DHA supplements of food rich in it. Research shows that this fat helps boost mood all year long, especially in the winter. In fact, DHA curbs depression by up to 50% in people who are the most difficult to treat; and even helps those who just battle a bit of grumpiness. Interestingly, researchers have found that people who are depressed have much lower levels of omega-3 fats in their blood, fat tissues, and brains — up to 36% lower than happy people. In fact, as omega-3 levels drop, so do levels of serotonin, leaving people grumpy, blue, and downright depressed. If your DHA levels are low, you have a 2.6 times greater risk of getting really crabby and blue compared to someone who keeps those levels high. On the other hand, up your intake of omega-3 fat DHA and serotonin levels rise and mood improves. The evidence is so overwhelming that the American Psychiatric Association in 2006 recommended omega-3s be included in any treatment for depression.

JWM: What are the best foods for omega-3 fat?

ES: You can get all the omega-3 fat you need from flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, leafy greens or soy to help lower your risk for heart disease, but those foods will do nothing for your mood or memory. That’s because there are three omega-3 fats, and they are not all created equal. It is only the omega-3s in fish, especially DHA, which will boost your mood. Aim for 2 servings of omega-3-rich fish such as salmon every week, choose foods fortified with DHA, and/or take a daily supplement that contains at least 220 milligrams of DHA.

JWM: If we don’t see any improvement in our mood or appetite after a few weeks on a high-carb menu, what should we do?

ES: Try substituting some of those carbs for more protein. New research from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that some people don’t experience a mood boost when they eat high-carb diets. So, if you still feel grumpy after a week’s worth of the high-carb choices, try cutting back on the carbohydrates and  increasing protein intake by adding a slice of turkey or a glass of milk to the meal. Protein has a satiating effect that keeps you full longer and curbs cravings in some people.

JWM: A lot of people drink coffee to improve their mood. But for some, like me, it has the opposite effect. What are your thoughts about this?

ES: It’s better to limit coffee. While caffeine is a great pick-me-up, if you are drinking more than 3 small cups a day, it could be fueling fatigue. For the person who is sensitive to sugar or caffeine, simply removing these substances from the diet may be all it takes to reduce or even eliminate depression, according to research from the University of South Alabama. How coffee affects mood is unclear, although caffeine is a drug that affects the nervous system. Cut back or eliminate coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, colas, and caffeine-containing medications, such as Excedrin, Dristan, and Dexatrim.

JWM: We spend so much time in heated rooms in the winter, leading to not only dry skin, but dry everything. Is that a factor?

ES: Absolutely. Actually, the first sign of dehydration is fatigue, which is the stepping stone for depression. Many of us are mildly dehydrated, because thirst is a poor indicator of your body’s need for water. Drink twice as much water as it takes to quench your thirst, or at least 8 glasses daily. Drink even more water if you exercise intensely or drink a lot of coffee and tea.

JWM: Are there any other supplements that you recommend that can affect our moods?

ES: It is difficult in winter to constantly keep up the proper quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit. So several nutrient deficiencies, including the B vitamins, are more common in the winter that indicate a link to impaired mental ability and mood swings. More than one in four patients with depression is deficient in vitamins B2, B6, and B12, and folic acid. B-rich foods include chicken, legumes, fish, bananas, avocados, and dark green leafy vegetables. A moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral, supplies these B vitamins and can fill in the nutritional gaps on those days when you don’t eat perfectly. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels, which can occur due to lack of exposure to sunlight, might contribute to winter blues. So make sure your supplement has at least 1000IU of this important nutrient.

JWM: What about exercise? Please don’t say to take a spin class or use the elliptical machines, my two fitness nemeses in any season!

ES: Any kind of exercise is good. It’s well proven that people who are vigorously active almost every day are at much lower risk for developing any form of depression, including winter blues.

Now if I can get my husband, The Lawyer, to sprint to take omega-3 supplements while drinking a gallon of water, I might have some peace around here before springtime!

Snow Problems: Suggestions for Surviving This Wicked Winter

christmas_snowy_road-1809I live in New York City which has been smacked with the worst winter in over three decades. However, if you reside in one of the few areas left that hasn’t been hit with record cold or sleet and snow –yes, I’m talking about you L.A. and Honolulu — no need to read any further. Then again, no matter which part of the country you happen to call home, you are most likely suffering from SAD, the inevitable seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression or lack-of-daylight blues. So it’s high time for some much-needed advice to help uplift our spirits. For this, I turned to Colin Christopher, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of the bestselling book, Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make or Break You. Christopher, you see, contends that whether you are simply fed up with slogging through yet another round of slush, or just feeling down from time to time, there are ways to find positives to help you become Better Than Before — before springtime.

After all, even bears learn to cope with the cold — and so can we. To that end, here are Christopher’s tried and true techniques that work to reprogram our minds:

• Change the colors of your environment: Color plays a huge role in setting the mood. This time of year, because of a lack of sunlight, it’s best to surround yourself with vibrant bold colors that will lift your spirit and energize you. Think bright reds, oranges and yellows. Try to avoid grays, light blues and white. This can be as easy as painting a bright accent to a bedroom wall to adding small odds and ends that enhance your office or any other space.

• Pump up the Music: The sounds we hear have a direct correlation to how we feel. Athletes typically listen to high energy music to get them ready to compete, just like many people listen to soothing soft music to get them ready for bed. To boost your mood, listen to music that gets you moving and makes you feel good.

• Drink more water: Dehydration increases blood pressure which in turn increases stress and can quickly bring down your mood. Being hydrated is not only good for your overall health, but even one eight-ounce glass can quickly help raise your spirits.

• Think of happier times: Remembering a happy memory for 10-30 seconds can get you out of a rut. Maybe it’s when you got married or held your child for the first time, or something even simpler like a concert you went to or barbequing with friends and family.

• Look up: It sounds simple, but it works. Sit up or stand straight and lift your chin directly towards the ceiling, sky or other high point. This physical movement gives you clarity of thought and automatically makes you feel good. Enhance this simple technique by inhaling deeply from your diaphragm (stomach area), holding for three seconds and exhaling slowly through your lips and dropping your shoulders as you breathe out. Try reciting a statement like “I feel good” or “I feel strong and confident” as you exhale.

• Use your brain: If spending more time indoors, become mentally engaged in an activity. It can be something as simple as a crossword puzzle or board game. The key is mental stimulation in some capacity.

As they say, the, er, snow must go on, so it’s essential to find ways to keep your spirit alive through it all. Better Than Before believes that while ‘stuff’ happens in life, some of it, like the weather, is entirely out of our control. But if there is something we can do about it, we owe it to ourselves to try. The good news is that this week it’s supposed to be in the mid-forties around here. A veritable heat wave! Now we just have to make sure we can still fit into our bathing suits after all those hot chocolates and chicken pot pies.

Message in a Bottle Makes Its Way to Mom Two Years After Her Daughter’s Death

Superstorm Message in a BottleStories like this are so amazing and unlikely it seems strange we’d ever have any need for fiction.

Sidonie Fery was 10 years old when she wrote a brief note to her mother, sealed it in a green bottle, and cast it into the ocean about an hour east of Manhattan. That was over ten years ago.

Three years ago, at age 18, Sidonie fell to her death at her boarding school in Switzerland, leaving her family shocked and distraught. But the story doesn’t end there. And this is the part where we start to wonder if there really is a higher power looking out for us…

We all know the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy last fall: The second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, at least 286 people killed across seven countries. It was a horrible event none of us would want to relive, and it’s hard to imagine anything remotely positive could have come out it. But if it hadn’t been for the storm, a beach clean-up worker would have never come across Sidonie’s forgotten message amid piles of garbage washed to shore.

And so the bottle finally made it to Mimi Fery, Sidonie’s grieving mother, two years after her daughter’s death and over a decade after the day it was written. The message inside quoted a line from Sidonie’s favorite film, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”: “Be excellent to yourself, dude.”

The girl most likely had no inkling that these words would essentially constitute her last communication to the world ever. And that makes the sentiment that much more poignant. It would be difficult and perhaps unsettling to go around thinking every day could be our last, every word our final utterance, every hug our last sensation. But Sidonie’s story makes this possibility seem all the more real, and thus our time here all the more precious. And we have to trust that everything, somehow, will be alright in the end.

Are you inspired by Sidonie’s story? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

The Most Powerful Suicide-Prevention Ad You Will Ever See

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 11.26.55 AMYou’re walking through a crowded subway station on your way to work or school when something catches your eye. It’s a moving poster/screen showing a girl sitting in a bathtub, tears streaming down her face. She picks up a telephone and starts dialing – and miraculously at the same time, the payphone next to the poster starts ringing. What do you do?

The above describes a real ad-campaign run by Samaritans, a charity and confidential support group that offers phone-based counseling and suicide-prevention in the UK and Ireland. According to the organization’s website, every 52 seconds they receive contact from someone considering suicide. The organization trains volunteers –  more than 20,000 in a given year – to take these calls and offer the compassion and deep listening that often makes the difference between life and death. Because of the urgency of this work, though, there are never enough volunteers to fully make the impact Samaritans would like. Thus they initiated the “Let Us Not Miss A Single Call” ad-campaign with the hopes of spreading awareness and recruiting volunteers.

Take a look at the remarkable video that captures this powerful campaign:

In 2010, 38,364 people committed suicide in the United States. That’s roughly 105 people a day, 1 person every 13 minutes. Imagine how many of those lives might be saved if there were greater awareness about the organizations out there providing support and scores of volunteers at the ready to take the crisis calls. Samaritans’ ad isn’t subtle at all, and for good reason. Obviously some situations are more nuanced than others, and more support is often necessary. But the organization’s message is that in so many cases it really is as simple as answering the phone to prevent someone from committing suicide in that crucial moment.

What do you think of this poignant ad-campaign? Would you answer the phone?

Thursday Morning Melody: Pretty Face

A beat is laid out, hesitantly moving along at first, then careering, taking off; soon sepia-toned clouds of piano gather overhead, shimmering, turning darker and richer, and then Sóley raises her voice – a voice that, until five years ago, she didn’t even consider a proper ‘singing voice’.

This is how Icelandic singer/songwriter Sóley Stefánsdóttir describes her work – and the impression given is uncannily accurate. Hailing originally from the seven-piece indie folk group, Seabear, Sóley began as a pure instrumentalist, only coming into her skin as a singer in 2010. And how lucky we are that she did! True to the quote above, her music is more atmospheric than it is melodic, though that shouldn’t keep you from singing along. Instruments, voice, and lyrics come together with gossamer beauty, seemingly ephemeral in their dreaminess. Enjoy the misty tune, “Pretty Face,” off Sóley’s second album, We Sink, and see if you can detect its subtle meaning.

I see my pretty face in his old eyes
I listen to our blood run side by side
I throw my hands to you and run away
It’s so cold, so dangerous that I can’t stay

I ran away from you
into your dream
the one
That I was in when you
told me
That I could never meet
my friend
again

I thought I had touched them but I can’t feel
I’m in your dream
They want to take me but I will hide from them
Tonight I’ll take your life and throw it far away
I’ll use my pretty face to find my way to him

I ran away from you
into your dream
the one
That I was in when you
told me
That I could never meet
my friend
again

“Will you be my friend in my dream?
take that pretty face off show me
will we ever have that baby?
just take your pretty face off, show me”

are you my friend?

 * * *

This post is part of  our Thursday Morning Melody series. Every Thursday we feature the music video and lyrics to a song that touches us deeply. If there’s a melody you wish to share with the Intent community, please share it with us in the comments below! Click here to listen to past Thursday Morning Melodies.

Daring Photographer Takes On the World of Mental Illness Behind Bars (Slideshow)

KSR - CPTUPhotographer Jenn Ackerman is nothing if not a boundary-pusher. Her work delicately treads the line between art and ethnography, offering glimpses into worlds that both trouble and intrigue us – from beauty pageants to dying inmates. Alongside her husband and creative partner, Tim Gruber, Ackerman captures the beauty and grace that can exist in even the harshest conditions, as demonstrated poignantly in her photo series “Trapped.” This project, inspired by a NY Times article on the growing population of inmates with mental illness, brings viewers into the stark world of someone trapped both physically and psychologically. It’s a place none of us would want to be, but one in which Ackerman immersed herself for the sake of shedding light on this little known side of the prison system. Ackerman writes:

My intention was to make that made the viewer feel what I felt when I was inside the prison. I took a more personal and emotional approach to this project than I ever have…I left the prison everyday wanting to help these men that have nowhere else to go. There were days that I was extremely scared and others that I left thinking how much someone on the outside missed them. Some days, I had to remind myself that many of these men had done heinous things. There were also days when I was reminded that some of these men have faded into the system with no hope of getting out…

For most of these men, they have been outcasts of society and rarely heard. So they had a chance to share their story and have someone listen that actually cared to listen not just focused on treatment or safety. My intention is to spark calls for reform for the treatment of the mentally ill and the prison system in the US.

On the project’s website you can watch the feature video, which includes a combination of action footage, still images, facts about the conditions of mentally ill inmates, and audio from an interview with the warden from the prison Ackerman photographed. The content is unsettling and at times hard to watch, but it is an important step toward shedding light on a community that might otherwise go faceless and nameless. Their stories, at least, will not remain trapped.

 

Photo credit: Jenn Ackerman

“My Last Days”: 17-Year-Old Zach Sobiech Dies of Cancer, But Not Before Becoming a Rock Star

“What makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there. That’s what’s awesome about living in this world.” -Zach Sobiech

At age 14 Zach Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that primarily affects children and teenagers. At 17, Zach’s doctors told him he only had a few more months to live, and he was determined to make the most of it. Zach passed away yesterday, May 20, but his legacy will live on.

In this inspiring and intimate documentary produced by SoulPancake, Zach discusses his motivation to become a musician in the remaining time he had and his process in producing the viral YouTube music video, “Clouds.” Take a moment to watch the short documentary, listen to some of Zach’s music, and celebrate this young man’s amazing life.

Here is “Clouds” by Zach Sobiech:

Zach’s family has requested that anyone inspired by his story and interested in showing their support consider donating to their Osteosarcoma research fund.

What Do You Get When You Rub Sad and Glad Together?

As the Aladdin story goes, if you find an antique brass oil lamp and rub it vigorously, a genie will appear and grant you a wish. Probably you would request something that you needed or believed you wanted to make you happy.  The friction would release the magic which would change your life. So, it makes sense that when you rub sad and glad together you unleash a great energy which can propel you forward in your relationships, creativity or career – stories contain great truths about human nature. Many fairy tales and myths contain this theme of opposites: You have to lose yourself in order to find yourself.

Contrasts unleash energy. Contrasts trigger change and healing because we use opposites for the purpose of definition in order to really understand. How many of us really understand and appreciate happiness until we have been profoundly sad? Disappointment can potentially make you more cheerful!

Consider these examples from people who rubbed sad and glad together:

* Until I became ill with cancer, I didn’t think about my health. Now I really appreciate every day and keep close with family and friends. I don’t feel resentful anymore because I immediately release things which bring me down as they’re not good for healing.  I feel spiritually healthy and believe that my body will follow suit.

* I visited my mother who has Alzheimer’s in the nursing home. I was upset that she didn’t recognize me – I couldn’t help it because when your own mother doesn’t know who you are… So I started singing to her one of the songs she sang to me when I was a little girl and she started singing too. Guess what? She knew all the words. We were so happy and in the moment; something in both of us was liberated.

* I was let go from work after 25 loyal years. I was depressed staying at home without a job or any structure. No one was home during the day and I began to take long walks and think about my identity. Then a year later a job came along where I was competing with a young woman half my age. After 5 interviews, I got the job! I don’t mind the long hours or the commute because I am so thrilled to have “won” this job at my age.

* I took a blow to my self-esteem during a messy divorce. There were police and restraining orders, an emotional roller coaster. Meditation and yoga did not help me. I decided to take my bruised identity to martial arts classes at the same gym – a self-competitive aggressive workout. How strange that I found both peace and power as a black belt. I learned that when one feels secure, one doesn’t have to fight. I went to nursing school and support myself.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / The Blind Glass

 

A Short Note If You are Feeling Sad or Discouraged About Anything

Yes, it is our inclination to want to feel good. To be happy. That is what we do and should strive toward – happiness.

But that does not mean that you won’t experience sadness and feeling discouraged.

If you live life, sadness will happen. The more you live, and the more you love, the greater the rewards, but also the greater the sorrows. Indeed it is a marker of a life fully and deeply lived.

Some of these sorrows will come and then eventually go. But other sorrows are so deep that they will remain for good.

Whether it may someday fade or forever linger, when you are amidst it, sorrow is sorrow. The pain cannot be rationalized away. The pain cannot be masked. Nor, however, does the sorrow mean you are not allowed to feel happiness. Indeed, the sorrow is there to be embraced so that, even through it, you may feel a greater sense of joy. Not necessarily the joy of immediate laughter, but the deeper joy of gratitude.

Instead of trying to run from or mask sorrow, it is there to be embraced and nurtured. Sorrow means you were given a gift; that pain means you were given something worth rejoicing in.

In a world with absolutely no guarantees, you were granted something beautiful for a while. Whether it was a relationship or another being that was important to your being or something else, you were granted a gift so worthwhile that sorrow has blossomed inside you now that the something is gone.

Imagine a world without such gifts. That would be true tragedy. "Tis better to have loved and to have lost then to have never loved at all," as the famous poem goes.

Amidst your sadness, rejoice that you were given something that is worth the sorrow you feel now that it is gone. All things including sorrow have a side that points toward shade and a side that points toward sun; be sure to also dwell on this sun side of the sorrow … the beauty, the joy, the gift of whatever or whomever you were given, in whatever amount of time it was granted to you in its physical form.

And if, by the way, you feel you did not cherish the gift that is now gone enough while it was here, recognize these two keys: first, just as you forgive others for being human, you must forgive yourself. Think of someone you love dearly – perhaps this is the very person you are feeling sorrow over – and then ask yourself what you’d forgive them for. Are you not worth that same level of compassion?

Second, remember that you have done something right enough to recognize the value of the gift … you don’t feel sorrow for something you don’t cherish. And it is never too late to feel such gratitude, to cherish. That is the beauty of the gift.

You may no longer be able to get what or who it is that you hurt for back. But the bounty of the gift remains. Your sorrow proves it. So embrace it. It will help you remain aware of the greater happiness that the sorrow is wrapped within. It will help you move toward all the joys you so deserve. And there are plenty of them. They too are waiting for you.

 

Please pass this on to anyone who may benefit, and please head to www.IntenseExperiences.com to receive your FREE copy of Embrace Death to Thrive in Life: The Six Ancient but Forgotten Lessons.

 

Weekly Health Tip: The Winter Blues

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

 Have you had enough of winter? Are you ready for the golden days of spring and summer? The shorter days from December to March can bring the curtain down on our moods and well-being. Some people experience a distinct form of depression in winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The disorder is rooted in the interplay between our natural circadian rhythms, the brain chemical melatonin, and the warmth and light of the sun. Melatonin is secreted by the brain’s pineal gland, highlighted above in red. The absence of sunlight triggers melatonin production, so most melatonin is naturally produced at night when we are sleeping. When someone is in darkness for longer than usual, it can result in an overproduction of melatonin, which can lead to symptoms of depression. People affected by SAD want to shut down, and spend far more time sleeping. They crave sweet and starchy foods, so many gain weight during the winter. What else is affected by sunlight and warmth? Our circadian rhythms, which control our sleep-wake cycle among other daily cycles. In sleep studies, the moods of many subjects seem to follow the circadian clock, being at the lowest most depressed level when the body’s temperature is lowest, and improving as temperature increases. For most SAD sufferers, the return of sunlight and warmer temperatures brings the return of energy and a positive outlook on life.

Learn more about the positive health effects of joy:

TheVisualMD.com: Embrace Joy

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