As winter drags on, we begin to wonder if the sun will shine, when it will shine, and wishing we could leave work before it gets dark...again. The gloomy gray skies and biting cold winds seep into our bones and make it difficult to feel that all's right with the world. The drudgery of long winters can leave many folks in a serious slump, much akin to mild depression. Researchers have labeled this class of malaise as seasonal affective disorder, or AD. The idea of SAD dates back to 300 B.C. where documents on health and disease described how the seasons affected all living things and suggested retiring early and getting up with the sunrise during winter, while keeping your “desires and mental activity quiet and subdued” during winter.1 Today, an estimated 10 million Americans are diagnosed with SAD and an additional 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD symptoms.2 So as we prepare for spring while getting through this last month of the long “winter blues”, here’s some tips to help boost your mood beyond the traditional treatments.
Getting adjusted has many benefits, and one of them can be an increase in mood-improving chemicals in the brain. We know adjustments work on the nervous system and spinal misalignments can put pressure on parts of the brain responsible for neurological and chemical function.3 As the nervous system shifts after an adjustment, studies have shown that patients report positive mental and emotional changes and said they were able to manage stress and enjoy life more for a period of several months following a treatment plan.4 That’s big news! Although the amount of research on how and why adjustments affect mood is small, the research still proves that it does make people feel better! Schedule your adjustment today and find out for yourself. Another theory is related to pain relief - those in chronic pain are more susceptible to depression, so chiropractic care can help alleviate both.3 We know our body’s biochemistry is tricky and complex, but we also know getting adjusted can set the nervous system right and allow it to function at its best. So using this as a tool this time of year to beat the blues is a great decision for your health!
This is a simple thing most families have gotten away from because of our busy schedules and endless commitments. But dining together as a family makes for happier children, parents and grandparents. Dozens of studies have shown this outcome, and being together at mealtime also results in substantially higher intake of several specific nutrients, including fiber, calcium, folate, iron, vitamins B6, B12, C, and E; and with lower average glycemic index; and with lower intake of saturated and trans fats. The benefits are even greater if kids are involved in mealtime preparation and cleaning.5 In an excerpt from Feeding Baby Green, by Dr. Alan Greene, we learn: “An August 2004 study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine followed thousands of youth. About ¼ of them reported having family meals 7 or more times a week. About ¼ reported having family meals 2 times or less a week. Those who enjoyed 7 family meals a week demonstrated significant, measurable benefits such as those we have been discussing, including better grades, less depression, less suicide risk, and less substance abuse – even in families that were otherwise similar. Imagine how powerful it could be for our families to gather together around the table more often.” Get started on your family meal planning made easy by following our Pinterest board for delicious, healthy meals.
There's plenty of research that confirms the crucial role sleep plays on our health. In short, the amount of hours your sleep, as well as your quality of sleep, can affect your overall health. During winter, some experts speculate that the darker mornings results in increased melatonin production while our alarms are going off, which accounts for the extra grogginess we feel getting out of bed. Basically, our circadian rhythm gets thrown out of whack, so it’s up to each of us to track our sleep and find how much each of us really needs to function well. We recommend avoiding blue light, or screen time, an hour before bed. If you cannot resist, buy a pair of blue light glasses or add a blue light filter to your prescription lenses to avoid getting overstimulated, which can lead to insomnia. We also recommend turning off WiFi and putting all devices in airplane mode. The amount of EMF activity radiating within your home can make for disrupted and lower quality sleep. Use an app that uses your microphone (not EMF’s) to track your sleep, such as Sleep Cycle. It is free and easy to use, as it will only pick up your own snoring, not your partners. Plus the premium paid version allows you to compare your own sleep with that of those around the world! For a full research article on the science connecting SAD and sleep issues, click here.
Taking time for yourself is a lost art in today’s busy culture. Being busy makes us feel important, which gives us cred for finding our place in this world. But scheduling “me time” is so important to finding true fulfillment in life. Psychologists say alone time has numerous effects, including rebooting our brain, making us more productive, it aids in problem solving, strengthens relationships, helps us unwind and more! It will look different for each of us, but start with what made you happy when you were younger - nature walks, star gazing, massage, coffee with friends, playing sports or going to the movies are all great choices. Just take time to disconnect from your calendar and reconnect with your Creator. We are all spiritual beings and finding happiness is often a glance inward, not outward.
There’s a saying in the oily community that goes, “there’s an oil for that”, so it would make sense that essential oils are a great tool for overcoming seasonal depression. The tricky part is finding which oil works best with your body chemistry. Everyone reacts differently to oils, much like prescription drugs. They are the heart of the plant and incredibly powerful, natural tools for wellness. At Carney Chiropractic Center, we use oils daily on patients. We are a Young Living Pro distributor, and you can purchase them directly through our office without worrying about shipping costs. Some of our favorites for happiness include Frankincense, Joy, Marjoram, and Inner Child. Let us know if you would like to sample any oils (IT’S FREE!); to get your 2019 starter kit, click here and find out why we say, “Life is better with essential oils”.
Being of service to someone or something outside of yourself will also do the trick. Research has tied volunteerism to better health and happiness, as it has been shown to release more oxytocin and progesterone, the caregiving hormones.7 This must be why moms get all the credit as the best “servants” of their children! Another benefit of those hormones is they help to regulate inflammation in the body, which affects our stress level and ability to relax.7 Volunteer Match is a great place to start to find volunteer opportunities near you, or call a friend today and spread some sunshine into their life! Sources:
- The Atlantic, “Will Norway Ever Beat the Winter Blues?”, March 14, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/03/seasonal-affective-disorder-mosaic/519495/
- Psychology Today, “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, February 7, 2019 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder
- Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research (Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care as a Complementary Strategy for Depression and Anxiety: A Prospective Case Series Analysis)
- Australian Spinal Research Foundation: Posture, Happiness, and the effect of Chiropractic https://spinalresearch.com.au/posture-happiness-effect-chiropractic/
- Ghent University. “Volunteers are in better health than non-volunteers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170309090852.htm
- “Why Me Time is so Important for Happiness” https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20080/why-me-time-is-so-important-for-happiness-infographic.html