Amanda Hunt, Acupuncturist.
Beating the winter blues with acupuncture
Many people feel down as winter approaches. It’s cold. It’s dark. Christmas can be stressful! Winter brings shorter days and darker, colder nights which can affect our mood and impact on our sleep patterns, eating habits and energy levels. Our physical wellbeing and even our performance at work can start to take a noticeable dip during the winter months. For some people the affects of this time of year on their well being can be worse. Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may experience symptoms of depression such as anxiety, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating and remembering and not be able to enjoy the things that normally give them pleasure.
At least one person in every six becomes depressed at some point in their lives with one person in twenty diagnosed as clinically depressed. Complementary therapies are playing a bigger part than ever in the way people deal with mental health issues. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and acupuncture in particular, has been recognised for its benefits in treating depression and low mood. In China it has a long history of use in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and now in the UK it is increasingly being used both on its own and alongside other therapies and conventional treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not separate the mind and the body, they are seen as part of a whole, so that when an individual has an imbalance of qi (pronounced “chee”) or vital life force, both mind and body can be affected in terms of physical and mental health. In winter, the colder, damper climate mean that blockages and stagnations of qi are more common and can give rise to some of the symptoms already mentioned and for some, this disruption in the healthy flow of qi can have serious consequences in terms of mental well being.
In TCM, the yin and yang forces of the seasons coincide with those of the body. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine says that “people and nature are inseparable”. While yang’s warmth, activity and brightness work through the spring and summer months, yin’s passivity, coldness and darkness begin in autumn and continue through to the Spring Equinox. The winter months, which represent the height of the yin cycle, can cause those whose constitution tends towards yin to feel the effects of the season more acutely. Many of us notice that our moods and energy levels can fluctuate with the seasons. TCM understands these cycles but modern life does not. These days, we are expected to be active, productive and creative all year round. There is no accommodation for a slow, quieter winter!
Acupuncture works by balancing and harmonising qi by inserting tiny hair like needles at specific points along channels or meridians, pathways in the body that correspond with the nervous system. An acupuncture session completely focuses on the patient and hears what they experience. It involves one-to-one time in order to understand them as an individual and their treatment plan will be tailor made and will also address factors such as what we should eat and how we should reserve our energies in order to get through the winter months. This one-to one attention, in combination with needling to lift the mood, can be very powerful in combating those winter blues.