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Health and Wellness

Beat the Winter Blues

Katie Gross, BA

19 Feb 2018

A week ago, Chicago got slammed with a snowstorm that resulted in some areas getting a foot of snow! In that moment I thought winter had officially arrived as we had not received too much snow prior to this storm. Fast forward to this week, and after two days with temperature above 40 degrees, half of that snow is gone and it’s beginning to feel like spring! However, living in the Midwest my entire life, I know that we’re not done with winter yet, so let’s talk about a specific disorder that can be a direct result of seasonal changes. With shorter days and colder temperatures, it’s no wonder people deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder or “The Winter Blues”. More than 3 million cases are reported in the United States every year and if you’ve never experienced the winter blues, chances are you know someone who has.

So what is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka Winter Blues? Symptoms-wise it is very similar to clinical depression, however, the winter blues usually start around the fall and winter months just as the name suggests. You might be thinking, why would someone suffer from depression during the same season every year. Well let’s think about it. What happens in the winter? Days get shorter and temperatures drop. These changes cause a decrease in the amount of sunshine and vitamin D our bodies receive, which can lead to a decrease in our immune system as well as a decrease in the levels of serotonin being released in our bodies. A number of researchers believe that serotonin is responsible for maintaining our wellbeing and mood balance. Vitamin D supplements might sound like a good solution, but I want to tell you about a few other ideas I’ve found through research.

Just like everything else, people have different symptoms, but generally they experience fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal. Not only do the winter months see a drop in temperatures and hours of sunlight, but the stress associated with the holidays play a role as well. So on a little side note, if you know of anybody who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, pay a little more attention to them during the holidays. As friends and family, we also need to do our job to let them know that we are there for them!

Now back to the science aspect of it and my thoughts on different treatments and devices that might be able to help those affected by this disorder. First off, let’s talk about infrared saunas. In my last blog post, I talked about infrared saunas and the many benefits associated with them. To recap, infrared saunas main benefit is detoxification. Research suggests you sweat out about 18 to 20% more heavy metals and toxins from your body as compared to a traditional sauna. They are also good for general relaxation, improved circulation and skin purification.

Another added benefit in our Vital Health Sauna is chromotherapy. Chromotherapy is the science of using colors to adjust body vibrations to frequencies that result in health and harmony. With decreased hours of sunlight during the winter months, individuals can be affected both physically and mentally, specifically with Seasonal Affective Disorder, until now! Color therapy has been shown to work on various energy points to help balance your body via the full spectrum of visible light, with each color addressing a distinct need. These colors have a variety of benefits including that of eliminating impurities from the bloodstream, purification of the skin, indigestion help, increased metabolism and immunity support.

Cryotherapy is another modality that can be used to help offset the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. You may have heard of professional athletes using cryotherapy for athletic recovery, or celebrities on Desperate Housewives using it for weight loss and tightening of the skin. Turns out, cryotherapy has been shown to help with anxiety and depression as well. How you might ask? Let me explain! During a 3 minute whole body cryotherapy session, individuals go through three different phases; preserve, purify and prosper.

During the preserve phase, thermoreceptors on your skin realize a temporary reduction in skin temperature and send signals to your brain saying, “Hey, I think we are about to freeze. Will you do something about it?” As the purify phase begins, your body goes through a series of physical reactions, including vasoconstriction, which helps to push the blood to your inner core, in order to protect your vital organs. During this phase, due to your body’s natural physiological response, your blood is enriched with oxygen, essential nutrients, and anti-inflammatory cytokines. In addition to your blood receiving nutrients, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. During this reaction, your body releases a neurotransmitter called Norepinephrine (NE). This is where the science starts to get exciting!

Norepinephrine, as a neurotransmitter in the brain has been shown to have profound effects on vigilance, attention span and mood, while the absence of NE results in inattention, poor mood and decreased energy. Now if you remember back to the beginning of this blog, I discussed how Seasonal Affective Disorder can affect your mood, and energy levels, but with the release of Norepinephrine during a 3 min cryotherapy session, your mood and energy levels can both be improved!

In the third and final phase, your body begins to prosper. As you step out of the chamber, your body temperature begins to return to baseline, which stimulates a “rebound vasodilation”, in which your body now pushes the nutrient rich blood back to your extremities and tissues. During the next 24 to 48 hours, your body begins to reap the many identified benefits of cryotherapy, including increased energy levels and improved mood.

If you or someone you know suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or general anxiety and depression, I urge you to give infrared saunas and/or whole body cryotherapy a try. A simple 3-minute session could change your life!  

First Time Discount: http://bit.ly/CryoPureFirst

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