Thursday, February 07, 2008

Living: Sunseeking

For about six months now, I've been a subscriber to Dr. Mercola's twice weekly newsletter, thanks to a recommendation by Kelly's friend, Liz, on their blog. I would very strongly recommend it myself; his no-nonsense advice and copious research, not to mention headlines like Soft Drinks: Disease in a Can have won me over.

One of Dr. Mercola's commonly discussed topics is the fact that most of us in the developed world do not get enough sunshine. That's right, not enough. I don't know about you, but I grew up with the message that 'too much sun can give you cancer' but nobody told me that 'too little sun can give you cancer too' - until now (another article, and another). And for the cancer we do get, the most common cause is our poor diet (too much processed food, filled with too many - sometimes carcinogenic - additives).

But, beyond cancer, too little sunshine obviously puts many of us (myself included) into quite a funk. As for dealing with these winter blues, Dr. Mercola has some great suggestions:
  • Get sun! A light-box or full-spectrum light bulbs will also help. Two years ago I flew to Hawai'i for a week and felt like I was walking on clouds for about three weeks even back in Missoula. In six days I'll be visiting friends on the tiny island of Gozo, Malta, where the forecast is for plenty of sunshine and highs in the 60s. And I've just ordered a six-pack of the above bulbs for Kelly in DC.
  • Exercise more - and keep it fun. Even when I don't feel like it, I still manage to get to the gym four or five days a week. Sometimes I'm there for as little as 20minutes, but even then I feel good that I went. Often enough, though, I manage 40minutes to an hour and walk out feeling really great.
  • Avoid comfort foods! Starchy/sugary foods actually stimulate quick bursts of serotonin (the 'good mood' hormone) in our brains, so we do feel good when we eat them. But it's a short-lived high, followed by a blood-sugar crash and (often enough) feelings of guilt for our indulgences. Eat more fresh veggies - green stuff especially.
  • Sleep! Our bodies follow the rhythms of the day pretty darned well, producing the 'sleep hormone' melatonin earlier as the days grow shorter. Unfortunately, most of us have lives and schedules that don't allow us to listen to our bodies and sleep more in winter months. Change this! Cut back activities in the darkest winter months as much as possible - your body, moods, and friends will thank you for it.
  • Get more Omega 3s. These are fats (that's right, you're supposed to eat more fat!) found most commonly in fatty fish like wild salmon (but NOT farmed salmon), and also in some vegetable products such as flax seed and rapeseed oils and walnuts (a good webpage).
  • Change your routines: pamper yourself; journal/reflect on your day and life; get out to the country - or out of the country if you can; clean (especially if this is new to you); listen to good music, etc. I've been LOVING my new noise-canceling headphones, listening to uplifting pop music and to the gayatri mantra (see below) - a wonderfully soothing and uplifting Sanskrit chant.

Beatles: Here Comes the Sun

Nina Simone: Here Comes the Sun

Richie Havens: Here Comes the Sun

I hope you like this song as much as I do! :) I grew up with lots of Richie Havens, too, so it brings me a smile just to hear his voice.

The Gayatri Mantra
May all beings be well,
may all beings be happy,
may all beings be free from suffering.


Nienke said...

great post :) many of this i already knew, but the lack of sunshine is a serious thing for me. i hardly get any sunlight, am very white (some people think i'm wearing white socks, when i'm not) and i spend too much time inside. although i'd love to go to the park or so (to read etc), i have this big other problem: i'm really afraid of dogs...

any solutions to that??

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Thanks Nienke - fear of dogs, eh? Lock yourself in a room with a Chihuahua for a day? That might be a bit harsh though. I think, like most fears, it's something that you need to get into your subconscious for - therapy of some sort, or hypnosis....

Nienke said...

Haha i will survive a chihuahua i think. It's more the bigger dogs or the barking dogs. And i dont like sniffing. I guess i should just make friends with the owner of a german shepherd...give me a few years :).