The holiday season is filled with emotion for most people. While this emotion is often happy, positive and loving, for many people it can be very unhappy and even depressing. Holiday music can trigger emotional associations with the absence of a loved one or unhappy memories from the past. The gap between the smiling faces of holiday ads and one’s unhappy emotional experience can actually lead to a deepening of the emotional darkness that often accompanies this season of lights.
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.
In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression. Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-
The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is the world’s premier nutrition education resource. Harvard Medical School and the Department of Nutrition at HSPH developed the Healthy Eating Plate to provide the general public with up-
Both my parents experienced the sudden change in life’s priorities associated with the diagnosis of inoperable cancer. Suddenly, things that have occupied our mind, time and energy are reappraised in light of a stark reminder of life’s uncertainty and our mortality. Hope is kept alive by modern medicine’s remarkable results with conventional treatments and the fact that some individuals do much better than expected, even with serious and advanced cancer.
Most people say the gift of sight is their most valuable sense perception – and almost everyone experiences decline in visual function with aging. B One of the most common symptoms of aging is the decline in accommodation, the process by which the eye changes (accommodates) focus to maintain a clear image of objects at different distances. This decline often begins before age 50 years. Accommodation acts like an automatic reflex, but it can also be consciously controlled.
Where is your attention when you eat? Do you love the pleasure of eating so much that you overeat from sheer enjoyment rather than from physiologic hunger cues? Do you overeat as a self-
Being disconnected from or being self-
Anger can be a healthy emotional response or a serious health risk. Managing anger appropriately does not require that we deny it, repress it or get completely rid of it. Brief, mild-
The three primary domains of your overall fitness are physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-
Surely one of the best things about modern science is the discovery that chocolate can actually be good medicine! Chocolate As Preventive Medicine? Cocoa contains phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called flavanols that may help protect you against coronary heart disease (heart attacks). Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains two to three times the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals. A possible mechanism by which flavanols protect the heart may be enhancing.....
Yoga can be fun and healthy for you and your kids – physically, mentally and emotionally.What is yoga? The word “yoga” means to yoke, unite, connect or join together. Yoga helps connect the body, mind, heart and emotions. It can also help connect you to other people, animals, trees and all of nature. We tend to think of physical movements and body postures when we think of yoga. Yoga looks like exercise, but its intent is very different. Physical hatha yoga is traditionally performed as a means of .....
Is it necessary, or even safe, to take an antibiotic for your next illness? This question is becoming a routine part of conversations between consumers and health providers. The way we answer this question has serious implications. Consumers and health care providers are both being urged to help achieve the goals of good medicine and public health: making a correct diagnosis, using antibiotics only if the diagnosis war-
I will never forget my patient who developed Type 1, insulin-
For many people, there is a relationship between stress and oral health. The presence of oral disease and dental disorders can cause stress from low self-
What to Eat? The world’s leading nutrition researchers are sending a very clear public health message based on the best scientific evidence available: To promote health, prevent disease and extend life, half your food servings should come from fruits and vegetables. For more than 70 years, the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has conducted rigorous scientific research on the relationship between food and health.
A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life. Modern medical, radiation and surgical treatments have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, who now number over 12 million, or one in 25 Americans. Lifestyle choices such as health-
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In addition to cold weather, winter sometimes brings sadness and depression.
Some people experience depression only during the winter. Others with year-
Common symptoms of SAD include depression, anxiety, low energy, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, headache, changes in appetite, weight and sleep, impaired concentration and memory, social withdrawal and isolation from friends and family. As with depression of any kind, it is important to take seriously any of these symptoms, especially if they occur each year, last more than a few days or interfere significantly with work or personal life. It is especially important to seek professional help if there are any suicidal thoughts or a dependency on alcohol or other recreational drugs as a form or escape, denial or self-
Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, there are several
possible contributors. A reduction in natural daylight in fall and winter can affect the body’s internal clock, causing changes in the circadian rhythms (variations in normal physiology related to time of day) and blood levels of hormones and chemicals important in mood regulation. Changes in serotonin and melatonin levels are two examples.
About 5 percent of Americans experience moderate to severe SAD symptoms and up to 20 percent experience a mild form. SAD affects women more than men. People living in the far northern and far southern latitudes, farthest from the equator where winters are darkest, are more affected. Those with a personal or family history of depression of any kind are more likely to be affected.
As with other forms of depression, self-
prayer, massage and acupuncture may be helpful. Ask your primary care provider (PCP) for a referral to a complementary provider in whom he or she has confidence. Although several herbs and supplements are promoted as having anti-
Your PCP can help you determine the cause of depression and other symptoms, provide educational resources and referrals and work with you to develop your unique plan of care. There is no diagnostic test for SAD. To establish the diagnosis of SAD and distinguish it from other forms of depression, it is necessary to document the recurrence of symptoms for at least two consecutive years at the same time of year. There must be depression-
If your PCP determines your symptoms are the result of SAD, he or she may recommend light therapy (phototherapy), anti-
Any conversation with your PCP, mental health counselor or chaplain/spiritual counselor must honestly describe the extent of the symptoms you are experiencing, especially if there has been any thought of self-
Please remember it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help and share the extent of your emotional anguish with a trusted friend, faith community member, PCP or mental health professional.
Sources and Resources:
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