View the 2021 Online Training Schedule

Learn More

Most Popular Articles

Month: December 2020

A 20-Minute Yoga Flow to Help You Embrace Uncertainty

By Brittany Risher for Livestrong.

Practicing yoga in a time of uncertainty can help you feel more stable and provide a sense of calm.

No matter how much you try to plan your life, you can’t avoid the curve balls that come your way and throw you for a loop. And 2020 has been filled with endless loops. There have been so many that even those who think a predictable life is a boring life may be craving stability.

Since nobody can forecast when life will return to normal — or if the “new normal” will even seem like normal — it can be helpful to learn to embrace uncertainty. This will not only benefit you until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, but it will also help you cope with all the unpredictability that shows up in your life for years to come.

And one way to learn to welcome instability is through a yoga practice.

How Yoga Helps With Uncertainty

“Embracing uncertainty requires a shift of perspective,” says yoga instructor Tiffany Cruikshank, E-RYT, founder of Yoga Medicine®. “This could mean welcoming obstacles as challenges and opportunities to grow, or it could mean finding that familiar place inside of you that is always with you — an anchor like the breath that you can come home to at any time.”

By spending time on a yoga mat, you can practice facing difficult poses and transitions, in turn building up your confidence to face hurdles off the mat. You can also practice coming back to your breath and trying to keep it steady throughout your flow, whether you’re in Child’s pose or attempting Crow pose.

When you focus on your inhalations, exhalations and any sensations that come up during a yoga sequence, you retrain your brain.

“We train our nervous system to shift away from automatic thoughts that, in times of uncertainty, tend to lean toward fear and anxiety, and shift toward a sense of curiosity in our moment-to-moment experience,” Cruikshank explains. “This recalibrates our perspective and anchors us in the moment,” rather than ruminating about the past or attempting to predict the future, both of which can happen in times of distress.

A 20-Minute Yoga Flow to Help Embrace Uncertainty

“With uncertainty all around us, finding ways to find steadiness this season is paramount,” Cruikshank says.

The main objective of the practice she shares below is to welcome whatever sensations or experiences come up along the way with a sense of curiosity. As you move from pose to pose, try to simply notice your breath and the sensations that come.

Move 1: Breathwork
Move 1: Breathwork
 
  1. Begin in a comfortable seated position. Inhale as you lift your arms overhead.
  2. Keep your mouth closed and exhale, creating an “Mmmmm” sound (like a buzzing bee) as you fold forward to a comfortable depth and lower your arms by your sides.
  3. Repeat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Tip: The key to this pose is to find an easy, comfortable movement as you focus on slowing down the exhale by creating the sound.
 
Move 2: Seated Fold
Move 2: Seated Fold
 
  1. Find a comfortable seat with your hips up on a blanket or two and your shins crossed in front of you.
  2. Exhale and walk your hands out in front of you to a gentle stretch.
  3. Focus your attention on the sensations and breathe here, allowing yourself to tap into an introspective curiosity.
  4. Stay in this position for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Switch the cross of the shins and repeat on the other side.
Move 3: Tree
Move 3: Tree
 
  1. Start standing and shift your weight onto your right foot as you lift your left foot to your inner calf or inner thigh. Press your right leg and left foot into each other as you lift out of your pelvis. Keep your hands in prayer by your chest.
  2. Stay for 5 to 8 breaths with a sense of curiosity to your balance here. Is it easy or more challenging today? Allow yourself to notice without the need to change or interpret it.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Tip: If you want some extra support, stand near a wall, but try not to lean on the wall.

Move 4: Warrior II
Move 4: Warrior II
 
  1. Start standing and step your left foot back in line with your right, like you’re walking a tight rope.
  2. With your right toes pointing forward, turn your left toes out and bend your right knee. Extend your arms out to the sides, reaching for the front and back walls.
  3. Feel the strength and steadiness of your legs and pelvis here as you stay for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
Move 5: Half-Moon
Move 5: Half-Moon
 
  1. From Warrior II with your right knee bent, reach your right hand forward toward the floor in front of you.
  2. Lift your left leg up behind you as you roll your torso open to the left side of your mat. Lift your left arm up, pointing your fingers toward the ceiling.
  3. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths.
  4. Repeat on the other side by coming to Warrior II with your left knee bent.

Tip: For some extra support, you can grab a yoga block and use it to help lift your torso up. Or for a challenge, see if you can hover your bottom hand off the floor. Notice how your belief in your capacity here can shift daily and also influence your balance. See if you can tap into a sense of inner steadiness that is always with you as a mindset.

Move 6: Bridge Lift
Move 6: Bridge Lift
 
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet about hip-width apart.
  2. On an inhale, peel your spine up off the floor as you lift your arms overhead.
  3. On an exhale, slowly lower one vertebra at a time as you lower your arms to the sides. Focus on slowing down the exhalation as you deflate and lower to the floor, triggering the relaxation response connected to the exhale.
  4. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.
Move 7: Body Scan
Move 7: Body Scan
 
  1. Lie on the floor in a comfortable position. Close or soften your eyes and allow your breath to move in its own time.
  2. With a sense of curiosity, start to scan your body, beginning at your head and slowly making your way down to your feet. Note the temperature, weight and sensations, as well as areas that feel less sensation or any emotions or other qualities there. Allow yourself to simply notice.
  3. Continue with the body scan for at least 5 minutes. Linger for longer, if you wish.
  4. When you’re done, give yourself a couple of minutes to sense a settling into yourself, or a feeling of coming home. See if you can sense a source of inner steadiness that is always there, perhaps the consistency of your breath or the reliability of your heartbeat.

Tip: You can use a pillow for your head, support for behind the knees or perhaps a blanket for warmth.

How to Stop a Panic Attack in Its Tracks, According to an ER Doc

By Leah Zerbe for Dr. Axe.

Emergency room doctors are trained to stay cool and focused in the face of complete chaos. These professionals live in a world where the difference between life or death sometimes hinges on a split-second decision. So it’s super clear a special kind of calm is required.

For emergency medicine doctors like Amy Sedgwick MD, FACEP, the key to commanding a room — and her team — in the most stress-filled situations always centered on clearly delegating and assigning roles — and focusing on her own breath so that she can save others.

“As the leader, empowering my team members to do their best work is incredibly calming,” Sedgwick says.

“That aside, there is still the reality of being the person who is ultimately making the call, telling the bad news or having difficult conversations with colleagues,” she adds. “In these moments, I rely on stopping for a moment, taking five breaths, reassuring myself that I am well-trained, and that I can handle anything coming my way. This approach has never failed me — in the ER, or otherwise.

The focus on the breath is a natural one for Sedgwick, who is also a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher with Yoga Medicine. And it’s her mix of medical and traditional practices that make her well equipped for treating a common emergency room and urgent care situation: panic attacks.

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental disorders in the U.S. population, with an estimated 12-month and lifetime prevalence of 19 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder are among the most common conditions that fall under the anxiety disorder umbrella.

Panic attack symptoms generally last less than 30 minutes and often include symptoms like an accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath and sometimes even brief chest pain. Although 30 minutes or less may not seem like a long time, if you’re the person experiencing this intense burst of fear, it often feels much longer. People suffering from panic attacks often say they experience fear of dying, feeling detached or even feeling like they’re losing control.

What can make a panic attack even more unnerving is the fact that they often appear out of the blue with no warning. But on the inside, your body’s sympathetic nervous system is going into absolute overdrive.

Hot to Stop a Panic Attack: Increase ‘Traffic’ Along the Vagus Nerve

If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know it’s a scary situation that can feel very out of control. In some cases, it can feel like you’re almost having an out of body experience. Because breathing and heart rate is often elevated, connecting your attention and awareness to the breath may seem counterintuitive for someone in the middle of a panic attack.

But it’s Sedgwick’s go-to plan of attack when trying to stop a panic attack in its tracks.

“To calm patients having panic attacks, I do guided breathwork and have them first just slow their breathing down,” she explains. “Once they can do that, we start to extend the length of the exhale if possible.”

She said gently extending the exhalation helps increase ‘traffic’ along our vagus nerve, which innervates many of our visceral organs. “I have had great success with this alone, and the added bonus is that patients walk away with a real life experience of helping themselves with something they always have: their breath.”

Sedgwick says there certainly are cases that don’t respond to breathwork alone. Under these circumstances, she adds in some simple movement like raising the arms up on the inhale and “floating” the arms down on the exhale. “Sometimes I use imagery such as asking them pick a color they like. As they inhale the color gets brighter and with the exhale it gets dimmer,” she says. “In all, I am trying to get them to focus on one thing and just stay with it. This is usually quite effective.”

Breathwork in yoga is known as pranayama, and can different techniques can be stimulating or calming, depending on what you choose. Pranayama benefits can include stimulating your body’s “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system if you choose breathwork like nadi shodhana.

A regular hatha yoga practice, including a yoga nidra sessions, are shown to increase anxiety levels, particularly in people who are most anxious.

“I think having a practice you can consistently fall back upon — whether it’s yoga, meditation, connecting with the outdoors — in both good times and bad is the great comfort that we humans can provide for ourselves,” Sedgwick says. “When we do this, we are then calm, nurtured and available to do good for others. All that good comes back full circle and makes life truly beautiful.”

Blue Light Blues

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers.

We hear about blue light all the time as this big bad thing we’re supposed to avoid. But what exactly is it? How bad is it, really? And how are we supposed to avoid it, especially when so many of us are relying on screens more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic?

What It Is

“Blue light is part of the normal spectrum of wavelengths present in daylight,” explains Amy C. Sedgwick, MD, FACEP, E-RYT with Yoga Medicine®. “It is good for boosting attention, alertness, and mood during daytime.”

When we’re exposed to it at appropriate times, i.e. during the day, she explains, natural blue light is fine and even healthy for our overall system.

The negative effects of blue light start to creep in when we’re exposed to it after the sun’s gone down, which, before we had the technology to do otherwise, would be when our bodies would stop being exposed to light.

How It Affects Us

“As the evening time unfolds, and the daylight diminishes, we normally would be exposed to less blue light,” Sedgwick says. “However, the technology we have access to now allows for more exposure to light for longer parts of the day.”

As with natural daylight, she says, there are many wavelengths present in the artificial light produced by our electronics and in our energy-saving LED lights, with blue light being one of them.

The main effect of blue light on our bodies is sleep disruption – and sleep is crucial for good health and a good mood. Essentially, exposure to blue light in the evening is telling your brain it’s daytime and that you need to be alert and awake – usually the opposite of what you want your body to be doing as bedtime approaches.

Prolonged exposure to artificial blue light can also lead to digital eye strain, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists. The association notes on its website that blue light scatters more in the eye than other light wavelengths, creating “visual noise” that decreases contrast and can cause eye strain.

“All light can be disruptive to our circadian rhythms, shifting the time we become ready to sleep to a later time,” Sedgwick adds.

Blue light, however, is particularly powerful at blocking the secretion of melatonin, a substance released by the brain’s pineal gland that primes the body for sleep.

“LED lights tend to produce more blue light than other sources of light,” Sedgwick says.

How to Reduce Exposure

If you have LED lights like this, you can look for coated LED bulbs, which produce a warmer, less blue type of light. Sedgwick says dim, red-coated bulbs are the best for reducing the amount of blue light emitted.

“Computer screens, phones, and TVs also emit blue light,” she adds. “If you must look at screens close to bedtime or during evening hours, glasses that are coated with a blue-light blocking film can also be helpful. I personally wear them and notice a difference.”

You can also try dimming your device’s brightness, applying blue light filters (like a screen protector) or turning on the “night” function if applicable, which will make your screen a warmer, more yellow tint rather than the blue-white light we’re so used to.

Other Ways to Improve Your Sleep

In addition to limiting your artificial blue light exposure at night, there are other things you can do to ensure good quality sleep.

Here are Sedgwick’s tips for good sleep:
  • Go outside: “Be sure to get exposed to bright daylight during the daytime hours,” Sedgwick says. “It will boost your daytime attention, focus and mood and will help keep your circadian rhythm healthy. Try to go outside in the morning and expose your eyes to natural bright daylight for 10-15 minutes. ‘Daylight breaks’ throughout the day can also be helpful in getting an adequate dose of full-spectrum daylight.”
  • Make a sleep routine: “Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends,” says Sedgwick.
  • Keep your room cool
  • Stop eating at least two hours before going to bed
  • Avoid alcohol before sleep: Sedgwick explains alcohol acts as a depressant of the central nervous system and can prevent you from getting deep sleep.

Reframing Stress

By Rachel LandSenior Yoga Medicine® teacher, for Thrive Global.

Positive possibilities for growth.

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that many of us have experienced more mental, physical and financial stress during 2020 than in previous years. We are perhaps more aware than we’ve ever been of the negative impacts stress, and its associated cortisol or inflammatory spike, can have on our health, as well as our mental state.

Oxford Languages define stress as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Here’s the thing though: we evolved to adapt to adverse or demanding circumstances. After all, whether we are talking about significant trauma or small, cumulative day-to-day stressors, life is pretty much defined by them.

This is not new information. You know that you can adjust your physiology in order to survive, for example by sweating and directing blood flow to your skin in higher than optimal temperatures, or shivering and directing blood flow to your core in lower temperatures. But more than that, you know that facing a challenge can actually help you thrive. Lifting heavy weights prompts your muscles to grow stronger. Running regularly forces your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently, or become fitter. Intermittent fasting is an example of harnessing positive adaptations to controlled nutrient deprivation. Being exposed to an illness or a vaccine for that illness triggers your body to mount an immune response that reduces your future vulnerability to that illness. And the more often you practice a difficult or complex task—like driving, playing an instrument, moving through a yoga asana practice, or a giving a presentation—the more skilled your body and mind become at it.

All of these situations describe exposing ourselves to stress, and benefiting from it. Even extreme stress can trigger changes that psychologists call post-traumatic growth. Yet we also know that negative outcomes are possible. For example, when the temperature exceeds our body’s ability to respond by sweating or shivering, hypo- and hyperthermia can set in. Likewise, germs and viruses can overwhelm our immune response and make us sick, and traumatic events don’t always result in growth, and can in fact create deep emotional or psychological wounds.

But lack of exposure to stress doesn’t protect us from negative outcomes. If we don’t stress our systems with sufficient exercise, for example, we lose cardiovascular fitness, muscle tone, and even bone mass. If we live such hygienic lives that we aren’t exposed to pathogens, we can’t build immunity to them. And if we don’t present our minds with new information or the chance to try new skills, we end up with far fewer tools in our mental toolkit.

Imagine a bell curve. On the left side are low stress levels, translating into few learning opportunities or positive adaptations. On the right side are high stress levels, providing so many challenges that they overwhelm our capacity to respond, resulting in negative outcomes for body and mind. But in the middle is the golden zone, where our physical and mental systems receive enough stimulus to encourage growth. This concept, known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law, is well established in psychology.

Stress itself is not inherently harmful; whether the outcome of stress is positive or negative depends on the dose versus our capacity to respond.

We can’t always control the dose of stress we are exposed to, but can influence our capacity to respond to it. Research suggests several personal and lifestyle factors can provide us with a buffer against the negative results of stress, including good physical health, financial resources, supportive social connections, gratitude and mindfulness practices (including prayer and meditation), an orientation toward optimism and a sense of humor.

Of course some of these factors are within our control and some are not, but there’s an additional protective factor that may surprise you: our perception of stress has huge influence over our response to it. Research indicates that if we perceive a challenging situation as an opportunity for learning and growth, we don’t just improve our mindset, we alter the biochemical reaction in our body including a decreased cortisol response.

2020 has been a tough year for many people and there are undoubtedly more challenges ahead. While we can do our best to maintain our health, community connections, gratitude and optimism, there’s no magic solution to stress, no positive thinking quick fix to eradicate its impact on us. But reframing the role stress plays in our lives can help. Adverse and demanding circumstances are not only inevitable, they are in many ways desirable. They create the conditions we evolved not only to survive, but to thrive in. So rather than adding stress itself to the list of burdens in your life, ask yourself whether any of the circumstances you face are giving you an opportunity to learn, and grow.

References:

  1. Chan, Cecilia L W, Chan Timothy H Y, Ng Siv Man (2008). The Strength-Focused and Meaning-Oriented Approach to Resilience and Transformation (SMART): A Body-Mind-Spirit Approach to Trauma Management. Social Work in Health Care.

  2. Crum, A. J., Akinola, M., Martin, A., & Fath, S. (2017). The Role of Stress Mindset in Shaping Cognitive, Emotional, and Physiological Responses to Challenging and Threatening Stress. Anxiety, Stress and Coping.

  3. Crum, A. J., Corbin, W., Brownell, K., & Salovey, P. (2011). Mind over milkshakes: Mindsets, not actual nutrients, determine ghrelin response. Health Psychology.

  4. Crum, A. J., & Langer, E. J. (2007). Mind-Set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science.

  5. Crum, A. J., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013). Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  6. Dienstbier, R. A. (1989). Arousal and physiological toughness: Implications for mental and physical health. Psychological Review.

  7. Epel, E. S., McEwen, B. S., & Ickovics, J. R. (1998). Embodying psychological thriving: Physical thriving in response to stress. Journal of Social Issues.

  8. Hamby, S., Grych, J., & Banyard, V. (2018). Resilience portfolios and poly-strengths: Identifying protective factors associated with thriving after adversity. Psychology of Violence.

  9. McEwen, B. S., & Seeman, T. (1999). Protective and damaging effects of mediators of stress: Elaborating and testing the concepts of allostasis and allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

  10. Park, D., Yu, A., Metz, A., Tsukayama, E., Crum, A. J., & Duckworth, A. (2017). Beliefs about Stress Attenuate the Relation Among Adverse Life Events, Perceived Distress, and Self-Control. Child Development.

  11. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: Psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology.

Yoga Medicine® Online Yoga Classes Review

By Kristen Fischer for All In The Review.

Yoga Medicine is more than yoga teacher instruction thanks to the addition of classes. Led by Tiffany Cruikshank, the classes offer a medical approach to yoga that’s both educational and effective. These great interactive classes include live classes that bridge the gap between at-home yoga and studio classes.

I tried a few classes and found the SI joint class with Tiffany to be the real deal. She know so much about anatomy and tips for myofascial release and overall health…and got different parts of my hips and lower back moving in ways I didn’t know possible.

These aren’t “pretty” yoga classes—they are instructional yoga sessions that deliver relief for a variety of ailments and promote overall health and mobility. You may not look so great doing them, but you may be able to find real relief and learn about poses and moves to help you with chronic conditions. I loved the use of props, which are often thought to be crutches for yoga—not so. They helped loosen muscles and secure proper form even more.

Yoga is so powerful and it’s nice to see it getting the fame that medicine does.

Hopefully I no longer need my chiropractor…at least as often!

Loved: Easy-to-use interface, tons of classes and the expertise not just about yoga but about anatomy and form.

Didn’t Love: I’m not sure if the membership will auto-renew.

Ideal For: People who like yoga, and also those who want to learn about proper form as well as how yoga can relieve common ailments such as back pain.

Save Your Money If: You don’t appreciate yoga.

Cost: $39/month plus yearly membership available.

Buy: Yoga Medicine Online

The Best Yoga Mats To Buy Online, According To Expert Yogis

By Jen Murphy for Forbes.

Just as different yoga practices appeal to some yogis and not others, there’s no single yoga mat to suit all tastes. These day, yoga mat options are seemingly endless, whereas 20 years ago it was basically PVC or bust. There are mats of various textures, lengths, and colors, plus they’re made from a range of alternative materials, like eco-friendly cotton or sustainably-sourced natural rubber. And thankfully, there’s a mat to fit every budget.

Investing in your own mat is more hygienic than one borrowed from a studio—and it can enhance your practice. That’s according to San Francisco-based yoga instructor Sarah Ezrin, who says buying one is like investing in a home. “It’s where you’re going to have your yoga experience, and if you’re not comfortable it’s not going to be a good experience,” Ezrin says.

In terms of price and quality, you don’t need to spend a lot if you’re in the market for a new mat. Ezrin has owned her current mat for 10 years, and says that a dependable mat can cost as little as $20.

As for mat care, her number one tip is to use gentle cleaners. “A light spray with water and lavender essential oil after practice will do,” she says. “And depending on how sweaty your practice is, you should do a deep clean using a mix of lemon juice, water and salt every one to two months.”

So whether you prefer a vigorous vinyasa flow class or have a mellow hatha practice, here are our top picks for the best yoga mats to buy online, according to Ezrin, Tiffany Cruikshank, and other experienced yogis.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.com and to learn more about each individual yoga mat.

13 Facts About Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Kristen Fischer for Eat This, Not That!.

Along with the cooler temperatures comes shorter days. Is the lack of sunlight giving you the blues, or is it something more serious? Find out, here.

Love the crisp autumn and winter air but hate how depressed you feel when the sun begins to set hours earlier than it did a few weeks ago? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, a type of depression triggered by seasonal light changes. In most cases, symptoms begin during late fall or early winter and start to fade away as the days become longer during spring. However, some people get SAD in spring or summer—it’s just less common. Either way, symptoms include loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, lack of energy, sadness, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, a strong desire to sleep, or changes in appetite or weight. Thankfully though, the condition can be treated.

“It really is a manageable thing,” Dr. Janis Louise Anderson, an associate psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says of the condition.

You may have heard about light therapy, or phototherapy, as a popular treatment for SAD. Psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes can also help. There are many things, however, that you may not know about this type of depression, especially when it comes to how it affects your weight. To help you make more informed decisions about your health and weight maintenance strategies, we gathered some must-know information about SAD that everyone should know before the darker days of autumn arrive.

1. It Has Genetic Ties


A study out of the University of Virginia found that seasonal depression may be linked to a genetic mutation in the eye that makes SAD patients less sensitive to light. More recent research out of UC San Francisco found a human gene mutation that seems to connect unusual sleep patterns and heightened rates of the condition. Typically, symptoms begin between 18 and 30 years of age.
 

2. SAD Can Start in the Autumn

fall-scenery

Despite conventional wisdom, SAD doesn’t simply begin with the winter solstice. People typically begin experiencing SAD during late September or October, and it gradually gets worse as winter begins, says Anderson. If you tend to exercise less in the fall, you may want to make a conscious effort to move more to counteract the feelings of depression and ward off the associated weight gain.

3. Women with Other Mood Disorders Are at Risk

Long-term studies have found that about one-third of SAD patients have another type of mood disorder. Research also suggests that SAD occurs four times more often in women than in men, however, some sources say that men have more severe symptoms. While these 20 Foods That Put You in a Bad Mood certainly won’t increase your risk for the condition, they certainly won’t help, so be sure to stay away!

4. You Need to Get Diagnosed

Mature Woman In Consultation With Female Doctor Sitting On Examination Couch In Office

Not sure if you have SAD? Ask perceptive family members and friends if they’ve noticed that your behavioral patterns happen to correlate with the seasons. And most importantly, talk to your doctor. To diagnose SAD, you must experience symptoms for two consecutive years in a row, notes Dr. Linda Higley, a psychologist based in Washington. “The main thing is to take it seriously and reach out [for help],” adds Anderson.

5. There’s Hope

couple having fun outdoor in winter. Young man covering eyes his girl with woolen cap
Though most SAD sufferers have anxiety leading up to the fall and winter, it’s possible to learn how to reduce symptoms and better cope with them. “You’re not doomed,” Anderson says, adding, “Some years tend to be worse than others.” And most importantly, if you know to expect a change in your mood and outlook come fall, you’ll be better able to manage your condition.
 

6. It Makes You Crave Carbs

pasta
People with SAD may have intense cravings for certain foods—especially carbs, explains Anderson. It may be hard to pass up all those tasty fall comfort foods, but the natural inclination to indulge could wreak havoc on your weight loss progress or weight management plans. To overcome your cravings and better manage your condition, Anderson recommends reading Winter Blues by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
 

7. The Stigma Is Diminishing

Depressed man
Does anybody like it when the days start getting shorter? Not really. That’s why people seem to understand that SAD is a legitimate condition. And it’s far less stigmatized now than in it was in the 1980s, Anderson says, perhaps because of all the research on the condition that’s been released in recent years. “We know much more now about the kind of annual changes that all kinds of animals go through,” she adds. “People can relate to it. In some ways, it’s not as hard for people to acknowledge it.”

8. You Can Eat to Ease Symptoms

Salmon

That giant bowl of spaghetti may make be exactly what you’re craving but you’re better off indulging in a healthier source of carbs like pulse pasta or unprocessed oats, which will boost levels of serotonin (the mood-boosting, feel-good hormone that’s lower in those with SAD) without causing additional energy dips. Omega-3 fatty acids can also increase levels of the happy hormone, making things like spinach, grass-fed beef, walnuts, and fatty fish smart diet additions. Vitamin D supplements and sources of the nutrient (like wild salmon, eggs, tuna, and fortified milk) can also help, says Dr. Linda Higley, a Washington-based psychologist. Though the reason why isn’t clear, there’s been a link established between low vitamin D levels and various mood disorders, including SAD.

Just be sure you’re not eating any of the 17 Foods That Make Your Depression or Anxiety Worse.

9. You May Gain Weight

scale measuring tape
Some people may not have SAD, but they show a seasonal pattern of weight gain or loss. And that’s because in the fall and winter, people are ‘more apt to soak up their soup with some bread or give into a serving macaroni and cheese. However, if you typically don’t put on pounds during the winter but you have recently, you might want to go through a mental checklist to see if you’re experiencing any other symptoms of the condition.
 

10. Your Location Matters

Man meditating outdoors

SAD isn’t about the cold; rather, it’s a result of the lack of light available as the days grow shorter, Higley says. The farther north you live in the U.S., the more prone you are to experiencing SAD. Just 1% of Floridians experience SAD, while 9% of those living in Alaska are plagued with the condition. In New York, 17% of the population has SAD while a few hours north, 20% of New Hampshire residents have it. All and all, about 6% of the U.S. population suffers from the condition.

11. Light Helps

Woman Asleep In Bed As Sunlight Comes Through Curtains
While doctors have proven that phototherapy (light therapy) can help people combat SAD, Anderson says that a walk outside can be just as beneficial. Rosenthal concurs, adding that mornings are the best time to get light. If you home tends to be dark, trim hedges to allow more light to pour through the windows. You may also want to designate one room that’s particularly sunny as a “light room” where you can spend dark winter days.
 

12. Exercise Can Help

woman running outside in winter
 
Getting more light isn’t the only great way to combat SAD, exercise can help, too, making a morning jog or walk outside a great activity to add to your daily routine. “Exercise is a big part of working with the symptoms associated with SAD,” said Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight. “I personally really like yoga because it also initiates an investigation of personal inquiry and body awareness which I believe is very helpful. But most important is finding some sort of movement that you enjoy and can do you regularly. Even just 10 or 15 minutes a day can be really helpful.” (If you can do yoga in a sunny room in your home, even better!)

 

13. Stress Can Be Tougher to Deal With

sad woman near window thinking
Rosenthal notes that SAD can make it harder to cope with stress and stressful situation. To make matters worse, stress can trigger people to turn to food for comfort which can result in weight gain—a nasty cycle!

Join The Yoga Medicine® Community

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with
our latest trainings and resources.

Yoga Medicine
Scroll to Top

Find Out More