Win­ter Blues? Seven tips to light up your life!

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION - Kelly Spencer

(a well­ness col­umn by Kelly spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & med­i­ta­tion teacher, holis­tic healer and a mind­ful life en­thu­si­ast!)

i am not a fan of rainy, cloudy days. i mean one or two here and there are fine but the con­tin­ual cloud cover of Cana­dian win­ters can play on my health and hap­pi­ness. i miss the sun ter­ri­bly and find my mood starts to mir­ror the gloom of shad­owy days af­ter any ex­tended pe­riod. per­haps be­cause am a leo born in the heat of au­gust, but i al­ways feel more alive when the sun is shin­ing on my face whether it is -1 de­gree Cel­sius or 20 plus.

i re­mem­ber many, many years ago hear­ing about s.a.d. (sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der). it seemed to ex­plain the symp­toms start­ing in the late fall and con­tin­u­ing into the win­ter months. i felt a sap­ping of en­ergy mak­ing me feel moody, tired or even blue.

i used to try and book a win­ter hol­i­day down south each year. my par­ents had a place in Florida they mi­grated to an­nu­ally, so it was an easy, cost ef­fec­tive trip for me and my kids. but as life hap­pened, kids in univer­sity and obli­ga­tions re­de­fined, the trips don’t hap­pen any­more, as much as i crave them.

s.a.d. (sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der) can be mild or even more se­ri­ous form of de­pres­sion. sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der af­fects about 2-3% of Cana­di­ans. Fif­teen per cent ex­pe­ri­ence a milder form of sad that leaves them only slightly down, but still able to live their life with­out ma­jor dis­rup­tions. peo­ple with sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der make up about 10% of all de­pres­sion cases, with some groups of peo­ple who are at higher risk of sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der, ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian men­tal Health as­so­ci­a­tion.

adults are at higher risk of sad than chil­dren and teenagers. af­ter the age of 50, the risk of sad starts to de­cline. re­searchers aren’t yet sure why. Women may be more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence sad. some re­search found that women may be up to nine times more likely to be di­ag­nosed than men. peo­ple in more north­ern coun­tries or cities are more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence sad than those who live close to the equa­tor. The amount of day­light you re­ceive changes as you move north, and that change is thought to be part of sad.

even if you don’t have sad, it is shock­ing to the Cana­dian sys­tem to see the sun go down in the late af­ter­noon of novem­ber. in con­trast, it sure does make you ap­pre­ci­ate the gor­geous north­ern sun­sets of sum­mer at 8:30 p.m.

my friend and col­league dr. mark dickson re­cently ob­tained ver­ilux “Happy light.” He brings the lamp to work and i of­ten use it at my desk. i love its bright­ness and af­ter a few min­utes i don’t know the light is on. Hap­py­light ther­apy lamps mimic sun­light to en­hance mood, en­ergy, sleep and fo­cus - but with­out the uv rays. They are said to as­sist with win­ter blues, sleep dis­or­ders, light de­pri­va­tion, jet lag, shift work and other symp­toms al­le­vi­ated by ex­po­sure to healthy light. Hap­py­light lamps are full spec­trum, 10,000 lux lamps.

How do you know if you have af­fects from lack of sun­light?

many have con­cerns with want­ing to sleep all the time, or have trou­bles get­ting a good night sleep. of­ten feel­ing tired all the time, mak­ing it hard to carry out daily tasks. ap­petite changes, par­tic­u­larly more crav­ings for sug­ary and starchy foods which can cause weight gain can hap­pen. many ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of sad­ness, guilt, ir­ri­tabil­ity, hope­less­ness and ten­sion and feel­ing stressed more so than usual and avoid­ing peo­ple or ac­tiv­i­ties nor­mally en­joyed.

it is very im­por­tant not to di­ag­nose your­self with­out speak­ing to a pro­fes­sional be­cause there may be other causes for these symp­toms. and even if it does turn out to be de­pres­sion, it may not be the sad form of de­pres­sion.

sun­light is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for a healthy and happy life­style, but many of us don’t get the amount of day­light we need to ex­pe­ri­ence its ben­e­fits.

so here are seven tips to light up your life.

1. light ther­apy lamps. There are two types of light ther­apy: bright light treat­ment, with the light box at a cer­tain dis­tance from you on a desk or ta­ble. Then you sit in front of it while you read, eat break­fast, or work at a com­puter. The other is dawn sim­u­la­tion. For this treat­ment, a dim light goes on in the morn­ing while you sleep, and it gets brighter over time, like a sun­rise.

2. get out­side. if the sun is out, take a few min­utes and soak it in! even if the clouds are cov­er­ing, spend­ing time out­side can still soak in some sun rays even if muted. go for a walk, as it en­cour­ages your brain to re­lease en­dor­phins, a neu­ro­chem­i­cal that boosts your men­tal health, de­creases your sen­si­tiv­ity to stress and pain, and can even make you feel eu­phoric.

3. open the cur­tains and sit by a win­dow. if you have a desk job in an of­fice or are sit­ting on a chair at home dur­ing the day, move it by the win­dow so that you are get­ting a bet­ter charge from the sun’s love.

4. get your sleep. go to bed at a good time, avoid the ex­tra nap that might in­ter­fere with a good night’s sleep and set your alarm. rou­tine can as­sist with proper sleep re­quire­ments.

5. avoid the ex­tra carbs and sug­ars. They can cause us to crash more. and if you are al­ready feel­ing blue, weight gain sure as heck is not go­ing to help the sit­u­a­tion.

6. if needed, counselling. if you can’t shake the blues, talk to some­one about it. seek as­sis­tance to find ef­fec­tive cop­ing mech­a­nisms.

7. make like Cana­dian geese and mi­grate south. if you can, go to the sun. Find the heat, the warmth and the sun­light and soak it in. by the ocean is even more ben­e­fi­cial be­cause of the neg­a­tive ions in the salty ocean air that is be­lieved to pro­duce pos­i­tive vibes by pro­duc­ing bio­chem­i­cal re­ac­tions that in­crease lev­els of the mood chem­i­cal sero­tonin, help­ing to al­le­vi­ate de­pres­sion, re­lieve stress, and boost our day­time en­ergy.

(if you would like to see an ar­ti­cle on a spe­cific topic, please email [email protected]­digolounge.ca)

Con­trib­uted photo

Doug Mac­in­tosh, a Batesville Cas­ket sales con­sul­tant, re­cently pre­sented Robert Ver­ho­eve with the com­pany’s four-day Train­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence prize pack­age.

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