When you turn your clock ahead this Saturday night you´ll enter the time of year when mild depression often subsides on its own. Medical research shows, however, when we “spring ahead” some of us actually GET the blues! Learn to fight back, naturally. Read more
Who doesn’t love Daylight Savings Time?
It ushers in longer days, and with sunlight lasting into early evening our moods naturally improve. Research shows, for example, that after Daylight Savings Time begins symptoms subside in those with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a form of depression thought to be caused by insufficient exposure to sunshine during the winter months.
But the time change can also spur short-term depression.
That’s because with more sunshine in the evening comes less in the early morning. And research shows that waking up in darkness can worsen depression in those already fighting it. And even precipitate mild depression in those who don’t often experience it. Fortunately, the morning light will return fairly soon. Daylight Savings pushes sunrise ahead an hour, but with each passing day it will arrive about 1 minute sooner. So by early May we’ll be right back to where we were before the time change. Until then, here are a few all-natural strategies for fighting the early springtime blues.
Light therapy can be very effective at easing depression.
According to Dr. Michael Terman, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms, exposure to bright light, especially upon waking, offers well-documented benefit. “It’s an energizer that gives a morning boost, whether you’re depressed or just sluggish,” says Terman. “And it has direct antidepressant properties, stimulating the same neurotransmitters as antidepressant medications.”
Of course, switching on your bedroom night light is not enough.
You’ll need to do some research to learn more about light therapy. You can even purchase a light box of your own, without a prescription. Many different models are available online. Use it in the morning, and follow up by spending as much time as you can in the daylight because exposure to sunlight at any time of day helps fend off mild depression. (Sunscreen required, of course.)
Deep, yoga-style breathing will also help combat depression.
That’s because it stimulates the vagus nerves. There's one on each side of your body, running from your brainstem through your neck and down to your chest and abdomen. Whenever you’re stressed, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure rises. By stimulating the vagus nerves, you counteract those metabolic responses. And because depression is often brought on (or made worse) by stress, anything that relieves stress will also help ease depression.
For extremely depressed patients, doctors have had success with a procedure called “vagal nerve stimulation.” A device implanted in the chest actually sends electrical impulses along the left nerve, to mood centers in the brain, which eases depression. But, actually, “you can stimulate the vagus just by breathing, if you make your expirations longer,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at Miami University. “If you exhale for twice as long as you inhale, you will be enhancing vagal activity.”
Omega-3 fatty acids supplements can make all the difference.
Found most abundantly in oily fish (like salmon and sardines), Omega-3 fish oils have been shown to impact at least some forms of depression. Psychiatrists explain that they affect the brain through a different mechanism than antidepressant drugs. This can make them a responsible choice for people coping with mild, situational, short-term depression. And they can be a complementary adjunct to prescription medication.
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