For those who love warm weather, long days, and getting out into nature, winter can be a tough time of year. While the beginning of spring is just around the corner, the last few days of the cold season can feel seemingly unending. For some, winter has an even bigger effect on our lives than what we wear and how we spend our weekends. It can also cause fatigue, irritability, and depression, thereby having a negative impact on our overall health and wellness.
If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — or simply feel less pep in your step during the cold weather months — these three suggestions will help you avoid the winter blues.
In acupuncture theory, human beings are viewed as microcosms of nature. They are intimately affected by their surroundings, which includes the changing seasons. A tendency toward sadness, a pulling inward, is appropriate as the weather turns harsh. It’s when a patient is unable to settle into the emotional change, or transition out of it, that an acupuncturist might suspect an imbalance.
In Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine, a great book for understanding the tenets of acupuncture theory, the authors say, “The climates, emotions, and activities of life are not intrinsically good or bad. It is their excess or deficiency that distorts the pattern of flow.”
Acupuncturists think in terms of interconnected systems, so excessive sadness, for example, affects the Lungs—the organ, as well as the meridian, and associated structures (skin is one) and functions. This explains why fall is such a popular time for the onset of respiratory infections and dry skin that often linger into winter.
Acupuncture for Seasonal Affective Disorder requires regular acupuncture treatments in the fall and winter to help maintain immune strength and emotional balance.
It might seem counterintuitive in the winter, but exercising outside — even in the cold and the rain — can mean big benefits for your health. A 2005 study from Harvard University found that those who walked briskly for 35 minutes a day, five times a week (or 60 minutes, three times a week) saw significant improvements in their symptoms of depression. These positive effects also lasted longer than those of antidepressants. Walking in nature is even more beneficial, as exercising outside boosts brain function and mental clarity, while lowering stress and improving mood.
As if you needed another reason to indulge in your favorite chocolate, the treat has been shown to be a powerful mood enhancer. An article published in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science reveals that chocolate generally increases pleasant feelings and reduces tension. Get the maximum benefits of chocolate by sticking to 1-ounce daily of at least 70% dark chocolate, which has much higher levels of iron, fiber, and magnesium compared to milk chocolate. It’s also got half the amount of sugar, while boasting nearly 300% more theobromine, an alkaloid that helps to lower blood pressure.