SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression.  Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-round depression have worsening symptoms in winter. Terms such as “winter blues,” “wintertime depression” and “winter-onset depression” refer to a potentially serious form of depression called “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), which affects people during the coldest and (most importantly) darkest months of the year.

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MINDFULNESS AND INNER BEAUTY

A mindfulness student recently experienced her body as beautiful during a body scan in class.  You may already have a positive self-image and feel good about your body. You may consider your body to be “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Or you may have a negative body image, even hating your body. Whether you love your body or hate it, you can benefit from the body scan, a foundational practice from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

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MINDFUL SELF-COMPASSION

Your compassionate human desire to take good care of others is critical to the well-being of your family, friends, co-workers and community – and taking good care of yourself is the foundation for your care of everyone else.  However, it is sadly true that we often take better care of others than we do of ourselves. It’s as if we need a new Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you do unto others. We would never say or do to someone else some of the things we say and do to ourselves.

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COMBINING MINDFULNESS AND EXERCISE FOR HEALTH

to events in your life begin to shift in the direction of wise, skillful responses. Choices in diet and exercise behaviors become healthier. You are more able to set realistic personal health goals and change your lifestyle from a growing internal motivation and self confidence.


Mindful Physical Activity

Research suggests a sedentary lifestyle increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and many other “diseases of civilization.” Increasing your physical activity can reduce your risk developing of these conditions as well as improve your emotional health and your life expectancy. But staying committed to a regular physical activity program can be challenging.


Mindfulness training can help you achieve your physical activity goals. You learn to bring moment-to moment awareness to your level of commitment and to the barriers, long-standing habits and excuses that get in your way. You also learn to really pay attention to all the physical, mental and emotional experiences associated with physical activity itself.


Research has shown you don’t have to use contemplative, meditative physical practices to cultivate mindfulness. You can also use dynamic, aerobic activity such as running. Like mindful yoga, aerobic activity also leads to improved focus and present-moment awareness. Aerobic physical training increases activity in the brain areas associated with voluntary self-regulation of attention, a hallmark of mindfulness. Having cultivated this mindfulness skill in aerobic activity, you can then transfer it to other areas of life. It seems the naturally heightened awareness of physiological changes during aerobic activity (heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, muscle and joint movement) trains the mind to pay attention under other life circumstances anywhere, anytime.


Combining Mindfulness Training and Aerobic Exercise

Research has also shown symptoms of depression can be reduced dramatically by combining mindfulness training and aerobic exercise. Thirty minutes of mindful awareness of the breath followed by 30 minutes of aerobic activity twice weekly for eight weeks was shown to reduce symptoms by 40 percent in people suffering from depression.


Drug therapy for depression is costly. It is frequently associated with significant side effects and is often ineffective. The self-empowerment of an effective non-drug approach has its own benefits in terms of self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.


If you consider yourself to be healthy, mindfulness and physical activity can help you stay that way. If you have chronic physical, mental or emotional conditions, you may benefit from mindfulness, physical activity or a combination of the two. Ask your health care provider for referrals to trusted consultants who can help you incorporate these healthy lifestyle approaches into your self-care and treatment plans.


Resources


DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

more articles by dr john patterson

As you approach the new year, you may be making resolutions for positive health behavior changes. Birthdays and other anniversaries also prompt us to take stock and vow to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Two of the most common promises we make to ourselves are to increase our physical activity level and our stress management skills. Research is now showing that combining mindfulness meditation and physical activity can dramatically improve physical and emotional health.


What Is MBSR?

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is the “gold standard” mindfulness course taught worldwide. The mindfulness skills taught in MBSR begin with quiet, meditative practices that help you “pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment,” a definition offered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR. Additional skills include mindful eating, mindful walking and intentionally paying skillful attention to all ordinary daily activities, such as physical activity. Over the eight-week course, you become increasingly aware and accepting of your immediate lived experience – physically, mentally and emotionally – and learn to make health-sustaining lifestyle choices. Formal mindfulness practices include body scan meditation, mindful yoga and awareness of breathing. These are practiced during class and in daily home practice.


As you gain skill and confidence in these formal practices, a subtle transformation often occurs. Your habitual, automatic reactions