With autumn upon us and cold weather on the horizon, many of us begin to feel we have fallen along with those colorful leaves. This feeling, this funk also known as seasonal depression, is no stranger to many people. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Seasonal depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or early summer.” It is more than just “the winter blues” or “cabin fever.”
People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression: sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of interest in their usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, and inability to concentrate.
It is important to know there is a difference between seasonal depression and true clinical depression. Clinical depression typically runs deeper. It’s a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. The exact cause of depression is not known. Depression can change or distort they way you see yourself, your life, and those around you. People who have depression usually see everything with a more negative attitude; they cannot imagine that any problem or situation can be solved in a positive way.
Today, there seems to be a medicinal cure for everything; however, there are natural alternatives to improve symptoms of SAD. Meditation and yoga are both excellent alternatives to altar mood. Easier than that, there are simple home remedies you can add, or detract, from your everyday life that may serve as a perfect starting point in alleviating the blues.
Mind. Body. Soul. Yoga is a natural alternative choice for combating seasonal depression. Its origins are seeded in bringing natural benefits to its practitioners. The word yoga in Sanskrit means to unite – it is said to signify a unitive discipline. In a sense, it is an exercise in moral and mental cultivation that generates good health, contributes to longevity, and the total intrinsic discipline culminates into positive and perennial happiness and peace. It is a science that affects not only the conscious self, but also the subconscious as well.
Sally Brooks, yoga instructor for Westside Yoga in Lakewood, Ohio, says when it comes to overcoming the winter blues, you should take a toolbox approach. “Keep a variety of tools on hand, something that works today may not work tomorrow — utilize yoga, meditation, nature.” She explains that through her yoga training, she has not only learned ways to help others, but also ways to overcome seasonal depression herself.
According to Sally’s understanding of SAD, it is an introvert versus extrovert dilemma. The seasons themselves fall into these two categories — summer time brings outdoor, social activities, whereas fall and winter keep us more indoors. “You need to find a good way to make use of winter’s introversion. Yoga is an excellent way to do this. It draws you in and helps you learn to be introverted with a greater sense of ease,” she says.
According to Sally, meditation is a good place to start. “Meditation teaches us to begin focusing on one thing: breathing. As distractions naturally come into your mind, practiced meditation teaches you to simply acknowledge them, but then get back to breathing.” Yoga grounds its practices in the belief that your inhale energizes, while your exhale relaxes, creating a perfect balance — a balance thrown off kilter by SAD.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge in beginning yoga to help heal feelings of depression is to embrace the paradox of knowing you have to take action to feel better, and it seeming like the hardest thing to do,” Sally says. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Yoga teaches cognitive restructuring, so that students of its practice are able to examine their own thoughts and become less self-defeating.
Yoga’s philosophy is simple: it teaches a pure state of joy and happiness. Those feelings are the antidote to the winter blues. Sally puts this into a scenario that is easy to grasp, “As life goes on, as we get older, we run into layers and layers of things that can be hard, depressing. It’s as if life creates a blindfold over the years — the practice of yoga is there to remove that blindfold.”