Is it Autumn or Winter? It’s certainly dreary, with grey skys, rain, leaves whipping past the window: enough to dampen the spirits of even the hardened winter lover.  For many people from now until the Spring sunshine breaks through is a difficult time, despite even the Christmas cheer in mid December.

In Acupuncture, winter is a natural phase in the cycle of nature: by following a cycle of growth, fruition, shedding leaves and finally resting in the winter, nature – be it a single plant or an expanse of natural beauty – is able to continue, year after year.  Why should we presume that we can keep going 24/7?  We all know the benefits of a rest – but we still expect to keep going at the same pace, relentlessly.  Slowing down slightly, eating something warm and comforting, is not a crime, it’s a survival instinct.  I know that, left without an alarm clock, I naturally sleep for an hour longer at this time of year.  There is a natural rhythm that takes us into the quiet, yin energy of winter, to rest and repair, before Spring arrives with its promise of growth and renewed activity.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects one in three of us, and is diagnosed as regular changes in mood and behaviour which follow a seasonal pattern (source: MIND).  Symptoms include mood changes, sleep problems and depression, which can be very severe, impeding normal life.  A good overview of SAD, and how to detect it can be found at MIND: http://www.mind.org.uk/help/diagnoses_and_conditions/seasonal_affective_disorder?gclid=CLuazvT837MCFerItAodCHMAzg  It has many recommendations for treatment, which include heat lamps, talking therapies and antidepressants, as well as ideas on how to help yourself, such as taking exercise outside

If you don’t feel you have SAD, but still feel down at this time of year, try mood-boosting – here are 20 tips: http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2134:20-ways-to-beat-the-autumn-blues&Itemid=64

Acupuncture can help many people with the seasonal change – it encourages our bodies to embrace a natural rhythm.  I see many people at this time of year, and post Christmas for a “seasonal top up”, to help their energy flow more freely, and release endorphines. Studies indicate that acupuncture can have a specific positive effect on depression by altering the brain’s mood chemistry, increasing production of serotonin (Sprott 1998) and endorphins (Wang 2010).

And, now that the sun’s come out, I’m off to don coat, hat and scarf, and go for a walk…

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