Renewal of the Mind

A new year might bring on many thoughts of renewing ourselves in some way, maybe in our outlook on life, health, spirituality or relationships. It’s a good time to reflect on what we’d like to change and improve. But it doesn’t mean we have to take on the responsibility of making drastic changes all at once.

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Small changes over time are what bring results. In considering this, we can use the beginning of the year as a time of reflection on how we would like to renew ourselves as we move forward. Many blessings in the new year.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

 

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Where You Hiding, Sunshine?

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What is going on? This isn’t right. Why’s it dark at 4pm? Why am I sleepy by 8? And also, why is it so cold that the city’s a big ole’ ice rink? I had to check in with someone else to see if I was the only one who was this disgruntled. “Ladybug, what do you feel like doing when it’s cold outside?”

“Nothing.”

“What a coincidence! Me too.”

And on top of all that, many people’s vitamin D levels drop fast with sunlight deprivation, especially people with darker pigmentation. Although, don’t think this doesn’t affect you, my pigment-less friends. Anyone can be vitamin D deficient.

I have to say though, of all the annoying winter-related inconveniences, the vitamin D thing is what I cared about the least, because I didn’t think it was really causing any problems. But I was wrong. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I think a lot of us are affected. Apparently, vitamin D deficiency can be the explanation for several concerns, like fatigue, poor immune functioning, insulin resistance, multiple sclerosis and depression. So it’s time to pay more attention.

According to researchers, vitamin D deficiency is very treatable. Foods like the ones listed below, supplements and the sun (the optimal and most natural choice) can help increase vitamin D levels:

  • fatty fish
  • beef
  • cheese
  • egg yolks

Many foods are also vitamin D fortified, for example:

  • milk
  • some cereals
  • yogurt
  • orange juice

By the way, the sun is so vital to our health that there’s a whole website dedicated to it: http://www.sunshinevitamin.org.

I realize it sounds like a terrible contradiction to have to go outside and freeze your tail off in order to feel good, but apparently, it’s completely worth it.

Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Real?

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The weather outside is frightful. Sidewalks are littered with gray, slushy snow. The cold is bitter and comparable to needles slapping you in the face. The sun refuses to come out and when it does, it makes a very brief guest appearance, shattering any delusions of warmth.

Winter is hard. There’s no other way to put it. I told myself the change in weather brings in new fashion, but reality is, I don’t care. I’m a tomboy. I do however love boots, so I tried to deal by justifying that winter’s the perfect reason to buy a new pair, or mayber 3 or 4. But that only helps so much. Sometimes, when I think of how dreadfully long I’ll have to endure the cold, I count and recount November, December and January, like the total will change or as if winter is exclusive to only these 3 months. As if.

The holidays are a nice distraction, but as soon as January hits, time seems to freeze and spring begins to sound like a childhood fairytale. To add to the gloominess, some people might suffer from vitamin D deficiency around this time, something that can add to feelings of low energy and motivation.

Many people I’ve spoken to agree that winter is yucky and annoying. And they all enthusiastically second my proclamation that all people affected by anything lower than 40 degree weather should be awarded beach houses, just for the winter of course.

For some, however, deprivation of sunlight and warmth is far more impactful than transforming into a whiner or conjuring up dreams of beach houses. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is not a fleeting feeling, and it’s not just the tendency to want to eat a little more or stay under the covers a little longer. People who suffer from SAD have a change in overall mood, lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble concentrating.

Loss of sunlight resulting in disruption of the body’s biological rhythm might be to blame. Sometimes, people I’ve met who suffer from SAD minimize their symptoms. They think it’s silly that they’re having a hard time adapting to the change in seasons. But it’s not their fault. It’s depression, something that should never be ignored or minimized. Good news is there are treatments, including natural ones like light therapy, exercise programs and nutrition options. Even though there are some winter enthusiasts out there, I believe many of us are on some spectrum of being annoyed with cold weather to becoming depressed by it. If you’re seeing a pattern of mood symptoms returning every year, it may be time to speak to a therapist. Winter is hard and we don’t have to pretend it’s not. Believe me, I’ve tried.

How Gratefulness Wards off Depression

 

pics 569Thanksgiving, in all its irony, is the one day of the year we dedicate to being thankful. Imagine how profoundly the world might change if we lived out every day as though it were Thanksgiving. It would counter our insecurities, our focus on what we don’t have or who we want to be. Imagine that.

One of the fundamental problems with depression is that it causes a person to see the negative aspect of a situation rather than recognizing the positive, which is why gratefulness is a powerful weapon. The key however, requires being very intentional in finding the goodness of life because, as most of us can agree, things can get really rough sometimes.

There are multiple benefits to having a perspective of gratitude, both emotional and physical. According to Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, gratitude blocks us from experiencing toxic emotions because it is very difficult to feel gratefulness and let’s say, anger or envy, at the same time. Gratitude also decreases cortisol in the body, which is a hormone produced during times of stress.

We can all use help in feeling more grateful at times, and one method is writing down one thing you’re grateful for each day. And of course you can list more than one thing, because after all, there is a lot to be grateful for. Depression isn’t always straightforward and it may take more than a thankful outlook to alleviate symptoms. Seek counseling and psychiatry services if you think your depressive symptoms are getting worse. Ultimately though, gratefulness surely doesn’t hurt.

Go to UC Davis for more information on the benefits of gratefulness and tips on maintaining a grateful perspective.

How Nutrition is Linked to Depression

img_0354What does it look like? Depression can mean having a hard time getting out of bed, not wanting to talk, even to the people you love the most, feeling like it’s a chore to do things that used to be fun, having trouble concentrating or even remembering. It might sometimes mean having to pretend everything’s just fine.

The musician, Kid Cudi, recently shared that he has suffered from long-standing depression. Although we know success does not equate to feeling joy, some may wonder why someone like him would feel depressed. Unfortunately, depression can have many causes, including difficult life circumstances, medical changes or genetic predisposition. It can be a complicated process to understand, even for the person who is suffering.

I appreciate that Kid Cudi shared about his mental health, because at least for a little while, the media is accurately describing depression for what it is, not a shameful secret, not something that happens to someone else, and especially not a weakness of character, but an illness that may be affecting our colleagues, loved ones and even us. And we don’t have to pretend it isn’t.

There are ways sufferers may naturally manage symptoms or in some cases, even resolve them (under professional medical and psychological care), depending on the source, especially if they may be partly or fully due to nutritional imbalance.

  • One of the most common biological factors involved in depression is unbalanced blood sugar. Even if a person doesn’t have diabetes, fluctuation in blood sugar can affect mood negatively.
  • Chromium deficiency is another nutritional issue that can cause mood issues. It reduces insulin resistance so again, there’s the relationship between blood sugar and mood.
  • Food allergies are found to be related to depression. A food and mood log might help determine which foods are causing problems. To determine a pattern, it might be helpful to continue logging for a couple of months.
  • Omega-3 fats help build connections in the brain, so a deficiency can contribute to  negative mood.

Check out Food for the Brain to read more about natural options for depression. Speak with your primary care physician or psychiatrist, as well as a clinical therapist for appropriate care. An article in The Atlantic  gives some insight into Kid Cudi’s challenges with depression and his decision to receive treatment.

Myth or Fact: Bread May Cause Seizures

image1Can bread be the reason you’re feeling anxious and depressed? Do you know someone who has seizures but doesn’t know the underlying cause? Based on recent research, it’s quite possible that gluten is the problem. Gluten is often linked to digestive symptoms, however, there is also research that suggests gluten is related to brain functioning and mental health.

Here’s what a research review of 162 studies shows regarding the relationship between gluten and neurological and/or psychiatric symptoms (Jackson et al., 2012):

36 articles for seizure disorder

20 articles for movement dysfunction such as ataxia and cerebellar degeneration

26 articles for neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness and pain related to nerve damage

20 articles for schizophrenia

14 articles for depression

12 articles for migraine

Up to 10 articles each for anxiety disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myopathy, white matter lesions

There may be a variety of reasons why a person is experiencing any of the neurological or psychiatric issues listed, however, it’s worth talking with your doctor if you suspect gluten might be part of the problem.

To read more about the relationship between gluten and the above listed diagnoses, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/

 

Forgiving the Flesh–In Which I Recount the Ways My Body Has Betrayed Me

I’d like to share a moving post about one woman’s account of the difficulties with her body and mind and their plight to help and protect, yet sometimes betray. It is a beautifully written piece. I hope we can all embrace and forgive our bodies.

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Dear Lily June,

As human beings, we live in the flimsy structures of our fleshy bodies. Our hearts, like birds, are protected only by a cage of ribs; our minds, like yolks, sit inside the bony eggs of our skulls. It is a system designed to be fragile and frail. We are not built to last forever.

In my youth, I felt as if my body was invincible and thus, I treated it as if it were invisible. (In fact, your Grandma Raelyn might recall to you someday how I used to hide my body, as a toddler, under my ratty baby blanket, transforming myself into a makeshift ghost and earnestly believing no one could see me when I was under there.)

When my own Grandmother Mary began the comparison game as I hit my early teens, wondering why I couldn’t “try to be beautiful” like my sister–your Aunt Loren–I…

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