Dark Days? Don’t Despair
Autumn brings with it many things, including a return of patients to my medical office. These patients, who were happy and healthy during the sunshine-filled months from May through September, often find themselves feeling poorly as darkness creeps over the land. Fewer daylight hours can kick off a cascade of irritability, sluggishness and a return of aches and pains. All of this makes the late autumn and winter months (especially in Maine where I live) seem very long indeed.
As we discussed in a previous article Curbing Carb Cravings, the seasonal decrease in sunlight causes a drop in the ‘feel good hormone,’ serotonin in our bodies. With less serotonin to ease our way, we may experience a variety of physical, mental, and emotional changes. Some people may develop a diagnosable mental health problem, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
To stay healthy during the autumn and winter months, try:
~Rising with the sun. Start your day as soon as the light hits the sky. Even better, bundle up and go for a walk first thing. Exercise helps our bodies generate “happy hormones” such as endorphins.
~Take a sunlight break during the day. If you didn’t get a morning walk (or even if you did), head outside at noon and catch some rays. Mid-day sun has the added benefit of increasing our Vitamin D levels, which are often found to be low in patients with depression.
~Follow our suggestions for curbing carb cravings, and optimize serotonin levels by making healthy food choices.
~Consider acupuncture, which has also been demonstrated to increase serotonin levels.
~Seek assistance from a health practitioner or mental health specialist if you find yourself unable to function at work or at home.
Whatever you do, don’t despair! Recognize that your body is following the lead of the sun and the seasons. And remember that the Winter Solstice, which heralds a lengthening of daylight hours, is just around the corner!