Turn the Lights On!
As the seasons change and the days grow shorter, we can be impacted by the lower exposure to natural sunlight. During this time of the year, we can be more prone to manifestations of seasonal affective disorder, a condition that can result in:
- sleep disruptions
- weight gain or loss
- loss of enjoyment of social interactions
For more information on symptoms of SAD, see the American Psychiatric Association SAD information page.
Researchers with the Baker Heart Research Institute in Australia correlated a decline in sunlight with a decline in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the brain that helps us to regulate moods and body rhythms.
By increasing the amount of full spectrum light (light that mimics sunlight), we can help our bodies to produce more serotonin, which diminishes symptoms of SAD.
Therapeutic full spectrum lights contain at least 10,000 lux (a measurement of the light intensity) and have filtered or eliminated harmful UV rays. These lights range in price from $150 to $300 depending on the manufacturer.
Non-therapeutic full spectrum light bulbs are available at local hardware stores and shops like Ikea. These affordable bulbs are more economical and may provide some benefit for improving symptoms of SAD but with less dramatic results compared to more intense therapeutic lights.
Boost Serotonin with Healthy Foods
You can also increase your serotonin levels by incorporating serotonin-rich foods.
Foods that are high in serotonin include avocado, banana, kiwi, pineapple, plums, eggplant, tomatoes, butternut squash, pecans and walnuts.
Also, herbs such as valerian, and hypericum, also known as St John’s Wort, help to rebalance serotonin levels. However, St. John’s Wort can cause sun sensitivity particularly in fair-skinned individuals. Be mindful to wear adequate levels of sun screen or wear protective clothing such as hats or long sleeves when exposed to sunlight when taking St. John’s Wort.
Did you know that 95% of the serotonin in your body resides in the tissues of the small intestine? Balancing the small intestine with a good source of acidophilus from foods like miso soup and yogurt can also help to maintain healthy levels of serotonin.
Exercise Away the Blues
The Mayo clinic found that exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week, can significantly reduce anxiety and depression. Yet, as we move into cooler fall and winter weather, many people become more sedentary.
Why not incorporate gentle qi gong movements and massage as a loving way to get more exercise and balance your serotonin levels?
Qi Gong Emotional Balancing Movement: Bend forward slightly and swing arms side to side as if swishing through a pool of water.
Increase the vigor of the movements as you inhale deeply for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 5.
Qi Gong Self Massage:
Large Intestine Pathway: Massaging this energy pathway helps to facilitate release of sadness, grief or disappointment. It also stimulates the metal organ of the large intestine to help build immunity.
To begin the massage, use your right hand to vigorously tap and slap the top side of the left index finger from nail bed along the finger towards the hand and wrist.
Continue tapping and slapping along the top of the wrist to the top side of the elbow. Continue tapping along the top of the upper arm to the shoulder and sides of the neck. Massage the area near your right nostril with small circular motions.
Repeat on the right arm with taps and slaps to the top of the right index finger, along the hand to wrist. Continue up to the elbow and along the top of the upper arm to the neck. Massage the area near your left nostril with small circular motions.
Lung Pathway: Massaging this energy pathway helps to facilitate release of sadness, grief or disappointment. It also stimulates the metal organ of the large intestine to help build immunity.
Vigorously tap the chest on the left side and continue tapping down the inner side of the left arm toward the inner side of the elbow, lower arm, wrist and inside of the thumb.
Repeat on the right side of the chest and down the inner side of the right arm and right thumb.
Small Intestine Pathway: Massaging this energy pathway helps to stimulate the small intestine to help maintain healthy serotonin levels and the ability to separate pure (positive) from impure (negative) experiences. By surrounding ourselves with positive experiences, we can help prevent depression and anxiety.
Massage in circular movements along the outer side of the left hand starting with the smallest finger, moving toward the wrist, along the outer edge of the arm to the elbow, along the outer edge of the shoulder, top of the shoulder and reach back to tap the shoulder blade.
Repeat on the right hand, arm and shoulder.