As we settle in to autumn I am reminded of the wonderful words of John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist, “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapour is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” It is such a comfort to meditate on those words.
Leaving summer behind we settle in to a new phase with its own unique beauty and reassurance. The acorns of the mighty oak adorn the ground, the sweet chestnut with its bright green, prickly coat offers up its sweet nut – the only nut rich in vitamin C. Its medicinal leaves provide supreme anti-viral and anti-bacterial agents. The Hawthorn is a classic heart remedy and the rosehip is brilliant for immune support and is also anti-inflammatory.
In short then nature gives us to much to be appreciative of through the autumnal months. And yet this change in season can, for some, trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD as it’s commonly known – which seems to strike as the season changes and the nights draw in.
“Perhaps it is time to welcome the change the new season brings rather than trying to maintain the same behaviour and habits we adopt during the summer”
Strategies to thriving through the darker months
Regardless of the cause of SAD, bright morning light seems to reverse symptoms. So spending time in early morning light is therefore important, as it lifts the spirits with the opportunity to appreciate one’s surroundings.
Enjoy an early morning walk in natural surroundings if possible. Be completely in tune with sights and sounds.
Numerous studies show that light therapy is at least as effective as drug treatments and you may find investing in a Light Box beneficial.
Interestingly a ’light room’ in a therapy clinic in Sweden consisted of white chairs, white coffee table, white cups, white napkins etc. In fact white everything. The room was warm and bright. Almost immediate effects were noted by patients being treated for SAD.
A positive winter mindset also helps. A study carried out in Norway showed that those living in the north of the country, embraced the winter months and had a more positive mindset compared to those in the south who didn’t like the winter much.
Perhaps it is time to welcome the change the new season brings and rather than trying to maintain the same pattern of behaviour and habits we adopt during the summer embrace the new phase.
It is a time for slowing down, going to bed earlier, eating warming foods, sensing that nature is showing us a new way of being for a time.
Many people are now experiencing the health benefits of cold water activities. Cold water (even splashing the face with ice cold water) triggers the release of endorphins, a hormone that makes us feel good.
At the extreme end, a hot sauna may also be a mood booster as neurons that release serotonin respond to increases in body temperature.
It is clear that short bursts of cold, being warm and early morning light all improve mood.
Mood supporting supplements and herbs
Now is the time to optimise Vitamin D levels. If you think you might be deficient you can order an inexpensive test online and supplement accordingly. You can also increase your food sources with butter from grass-fed cattle, egg yolks, oily fish, mushrooms and liver.
A Vitamin B Complex can be helpful for a stable mood and relaxed nervous system. Low levels of B-12, B6 and Folate are linked to depression.
Rhodiola rosea, Holy basil and Ashwagandha are all known as adaptogenic herbs, herbs that help the body adapt. Now may be the perfect time to consider one of these uplifting herbs for physical and emotional support.
In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, written around 300 BC, it is noted how the season prompts changes in all living things, and suggests that during winter, a time of conservation and storage we should ‘retire early and get up with the sunrise ….Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret.’
There are several theories as to why this happens as the winter looms. The leading view is because the sun rises later during the winter months this delays our biological rhythms and so they are no longer in tune when we go to sleep and wake up.
Symptoms of SAD
Sometimes known as the ‘winter blues’ symptoms can include;
- Low mood
- Weight gain
- Low energy
- Poor concentration