Feeling a little low mood, lack of motivation and sad during winter months? You may have winter blues also know as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Western medicine define SAD as a mood disorder experienced by people with normal mental health throughout the year whom experience depression at the same time each year, especially in winter. In Chinese medicine, depression is a sign of disharmony or imbalance of Qi. Qi is an energetic flow that circulates within the body and connects each Organs together to nourish and harmonise the body, mind and soul. I often find in clinical practice that lifestyle, diet and emotions are a common contribution towards depression. Overworking, frustration, irritability, anger, unexpressed feelings, overthinking, fear and over-consumption of raw and cold foods are some of the sign and symptoms that inhibits the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, thus leading to depression. The combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines and simple lifestyle and diet changes are a great way to help lift those low moods. Here are 5 tips that I advise my clients to help them manage their depression.
1) Exercise - 30 minutes walks daily. A study have found that brisk walking for 35 minutes a day, 5x a week or 60 minutes a day, 3x a week had a significant impact on mild to moderate depression symptoms. Experts have shown that by exercising it enhances the action of endorphin and stimulates the neurotransmitter nor-epinephrine. Endorphin and nor-epinephrine are what I call 'naturally producing happy substance' that help lift and improve our mood. In addition, regular exercise offers other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and boost self-esteem. So put on your walking shoes and start walking those winter blues away.
2) Sunshine - get more of it. When the sun is out, take every opportunity to get out especially when you work in an office. Even for just 10-15 minutes in the sun will lift you mood. If you are lucky enough to have a window in your office, sit close to it to get an extra dose of sunshine. If you are working from home, open up your blinds and curtains to let the sun rays in and also take short breaks to enjoy the sun.
3) Bundle up, go out and explore. The worse thing about winter is being stuck indoor. Granted that there will be days when it is absolutely yucky out there, and all you want to do is be indoor, read a good book and rug up by the heater. However, for the other days, encourage yourself to go out, explore your neighborhood, or even make a trip to the ski slopes and enjoy what nature has to offer. One of my favourite place to visit is Lake Mountain, not far from Melbourne to do some cross country skiing. There is something quite spectacular and magical about a winter landscape.
4) Crank up the tunes. Evidence are emerging that by listening to upbeat music can help lift and boost up low moods. Fill your space and ears with music that makes you want to sing and dance, even if you look goofy doing it.
5) Diet - nutritious, well balanced, cooked warm meals. In Chinese medicine, we always advocate that 'food is medicine'. A well balanced diet consisting of protein, vegetables, fruit and grains should be the first port of call towards the health of a person. I often advise my clients to eat warm cooked food and to minimise the amount of salad, cold and raw food in their diet. As the weather is cold, the body naturally desire warmer food such as slow cooked stews, bone broths, roasted vegetables and soups. In additions, adding warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and black pepper in cooking help enhance the warming properties of the food. These warming foods are a great way to nourish Qi and Blood. When Qi and Blood is healthy and well looked after, it will help manage and minimise those winter blues.
I hope these tips are useful however, if you still cannot shake those low moods away, please seek professional help. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are effective and natural alternatives in treating depression. We are happy to chat with any concerns you may have. Please contact us at Eastential Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Melbourne
Harvard Health Publications, 2009. "Exercise and Depression"
Blaszczak, J., 2015. "10 Things You Didn't Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder"
Rodriguez, T., 2014. "Can Acupuncture Treat Depression?"
Ljubinovic, N. "Acupuncture, Anxiety & Depression"