Are You SAD?

I just read a post from an old High School friend of mine about how they’re feeling somewhat “blah”. I could identify with what they said. It’s that time of year – February – where there’s not much sun, a lot of grey, clouds, cold, we’re stuck indoors, and we can tend to feel, well, depressed.

They have a name for it: SAD. It stands for “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” and many suffer from it. What can we do about it? It can have a significant impact on our personal, professional and spiritual lives, leaving us feeling anywhere from – as I said earlier – “blah,” to, quite frankly, suicidal. Yes, I’ve seen it go there with people. So we need to take it seriously.

First things first, exercise – both cardiovascular and resistance training – are the number 1 lines of defense against this winter scourge. Cardio causes us to have to breathe deeply, forcing our bodies to produce more of our “feel-good” neurotransmitter, Serotonin. This is the stuff that a lot of the current antidepressant medications on the market try to regulate. You can increase it naturally with cardio!

Then there’s the need for resistance training. Ladies, listen up. Cardio alone is NOT GOOD FOR YOU. Cardio alone will destroy muscle tissue. Cardio has an oxidizing effect on the body (think “OMG I’m going to age quicker!”), and it does nothing to strengthen your bones, to help you fight osteoporosis, which you’re more prone to than are we men. Cardio is good, but try to limit it to 2 or 3 times per week, 15 to 20 minutes, interval-style training.

Resistance training, other than providing you with the benefits of increased muscle mass and bone density, also causes your brain to produce another important neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Dopamine is the “excitement” neurotransmitter, the one that works with our drive, our desire to accomplish, to move forward, to grow, to develop. Channeled properly it can drag us out of our “funk” and get us moving in a more positive direction.

Another helpful technique is deep breathing, which also helps restore normal Serotonin levels. Breathing deep in to your belly will help your mood, and can be done in as little as 1 minute, by simply stopping and taking 10 deep breaths.

Use this technique: place your hands over your belly button, and as you breathe in, think about pulling the air in to your stomach, not your chest. This causes you to breathe with your diaphragm, not your intercostal muscles. You’ll know you’re doing it right if your chest and shoulders don’t rise as you’re breathing. Only your stomach should rise. Note that this is also a good technique for moving us out of fear, panic and anger. We tend to pull air in very shallowly when we experience these feelings, and breathing in to the belly can help combat that.

In the picture is a lady engaging in what’s called “Light Therapy.” Designed for sufferers of SAD and depression, it mimics the effect of the sun on we humans, helping us to restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus improve our mood. The light used is a very specialized light: not just any light will do. You can go here to learn more: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/seasonal-affective-disorder-bring-on-the-light-201212215663.

Regardless of the method you try, I encourage you to do something different if you think you might be suffering from this issue. Exercise and proper eating will go a long way to helping you out. Give it a try: you’ve got nothing to lose!