In his new book, Spontaneous Happiness, Andrew Weil, MD shares his views on the epidemic of depression (seasonal or otherwise), the widespread vitamin D deficiencies, and out of whack serotonin and melatonin levels. It appears that our bodies have not genetically morphed as quickly as the technological induced cultural changes have required of us—the problem is beyond just “culture shock”; it’s a problem of basic physiology.
Reading Weil’s thesis felt so affirming. His understanding jives with my take on things, not only as someone for whom the onset of winter brings the challenge of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but also as a trainer of clinicians and promoter of best practices in treatment approaches for the condition.
This perspective helps us to reframe SAD and to approach it as a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, a natural reaction to an unnatural environment.
So many of us are much too sedentary, in temperature controlled, windowless, tinted or even sealed window spaces, staring at computer and other media screens for too many hours of the day. The bottom line is that the mammalian part of us humans is not really built for the current lifestyle we Westerners enjoy; one in which we are cut off from the natural environment and cycles of nature, in what we eat, how much we sleep, our limited body movements and the amount of sunlight we are exposed to. We spend much of our daily life in constantly lighted environments regardless of the time of day or night.
The demands made of us to keep the same daily and sleep schedule year round, as if our bodies were oblivious to the changes of daylight hours or seasons of the year, takes its toll.
Perhaps part of the uptick of anxiety and depression is also related to our nervous system being bombarded increasingly from attention-seeking sensory stimulating electronic sources as opposed to the more passive and subtle features of the natural environment. This hyper attention is furthered with the 24/7 receiving of news of traumatic events and images from the four corners of the globe, as if it was in our front yard, keeps our brains constantly bathed in adrenaline and cortisol, the stimulants that ready the nervous system for dangers, real or imagined, in flight-fight- freeze mode. No wonder it feels like times are so tough though we are living in the lap of relative luxury.
What we gain from this expansive and holistic perspective of the unreasonable demands placed on our body’s central nervous system, is that it informs us as to what is needed for the maintenance of our wellbeing as human-beings on the planet and what combination of approaches are effective in the prevention, intervention and treatment of affective disorders.
Our workshop this December 20, “Ain’t No Cure for the Wintertime Blues?” explores these themes, and more importantly, what we can offer our clients to mitigate the more troublesome aspects of seasonal depression. Come join us.
Howard’s training “Ain’t No Cure for the Wintertime Blues?” will be held, Thursday, December 20. Click here to learn more and register for this training.