Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

During a conversation with a close friend, she reminded about her “bad months”. Bad months can mean anything for anybody. It can be a month when in the past, a loved one died or a significant relationship came to an end, or anything that reminds you of something that took a toll on you emotionally. Most people associate “bad months” with the winter months. Usually there are combinations of why each person gets a little down during this time.

For one, technically, winter months shorten the span of daylight, which provides us with vitamin D through ultravoilet rays. If we don’t get enough sunlight or vitamin D through supplements or ultraviolet lights (tanning beds and special lighting just for this purpose), then we could end up feeling down or depressed. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a very common thing among many people. Some people don’t even know why they’re depressed. The depletion of vitamin D can be very dangerous for some.

With holidays approaching, this can wreak havoc on many people who don’t have family, or are estranged from their loved ones. For some, it can mean memories of someone close to them passing on during these months. Even if they didn’t pass on during this particular season, the mere thought of spending the holidays without them is traumatizing.

Personally, November and March are my “bad months”. I know, March isn’t really apart of the SAD timeframe, but it does remind me of something traumatic that had taken place when I was 16 years old. A friend of mine noticed a pattern with me: every year when March approaches, I go into a deep depression. I didn’t realize what it was until years later. As for November, I went through 2 devastating breakups, which for some reason, my body reminds me annually. It’s not as though I’m still mourning over these losses, it’s just how my subconscious reacts to what has taken place during this time of year.

I’ve learned some techniques to help distract my SAD and “bad month mindset”. For one, I make to make plans with those who are closest to me. I hold more parties at my place and spend more time with friends and family. This seems to help a lot.

I delve into my hobbies more: playing guitar, write and work on my photography. Whatever your hobbies are, dive right into them. The winter is the best time to do them because we find ourselves a bit more inside than we were in the summer months. If you don’t have a hobby, take something up. They say learning how to play a musical instrument sharpens your mind and develops mathematical skills.

Eat bananas. Did you know bananas have the same ingredient that Prozac contains which make us feel livelier and happier? Bananas contain tryptophan, which increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that help increase our endorphins and make our moods more positive and upbeat. Don’t believe me? Try eating 1-2 bananas a day for one week and tell me how you feel.

Exercise. You’ve heard this so many times, but exercising releases endorphins that make us “happy” and set our moods in a more positive direction. You’ve heard of a "runner’s high"---well this is very similar, if not the same. I have problems keeping a routine myself, but when I get into it, I can’t tell you how much this relieves me anxiety and depression, especially during these months.
Laugh dammit! Laughter has so many benefits that it’s not even…err….funny. It can relieve pain, depression, anxiety and feelings of self-deprecation. It also helps to boost your immune system. Studies show that the release of endorphins that laughter provides gives you similar pain killing results just as strong as morphine. Wow! It also burns calories... Sign me up!

My lifestyle changes a great deal especially around this time of the year. I drink more coffee, I steer clear from sugar, I eat more bananas, exercise more and try to surround myself with positive people who make me laugh.

Of course the source of my happiness and well-being comes from a higher source: God. With prayer and meditation and a deeper sense of my spirituality, nothing can affect me like it could when I’m weak and vulnerable and distant from God. If anything, try these all year round. I can't suggest spirituality or religion to you, because each person has their own beliefs.

Whatever months you consider to be a great challenge, try your best to do what makes “you” happy. We all know that life changes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but it’s so important to learn to manage our associations with the months that pose negative thoughts and memories upon us. Of course, if you feel bad enough to where you can’t handle it on your own, please seek professional help as soon as possible. I still do at times. I’m only human…so are you!