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the Wintertime Blues

I had a hard time finding a topic for this month’s “Warp and Weft” until I realized that my old nemesis, SAD, had kicked in. I am feeling blue for no particular reason and, given a choice, could lie on the sofa and eat chocolate for most of the day. I enjoy the companionship of the dog but could happily forego the company of humans. All are symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

The human body is synchronized to be alert in the daytime and to be ready for sleeping when it begins to get dark outside. This happens because the cycle of day and night regulates the internal circadian rhythms of our bodies. Additionally, melatonin, a sleep related hormone that is produced by the pineal gland, is produced in the dark and helps us sleep through the night. Melatonin supplements have been used effectively for insomnia, and melatonin may also be a protection against cancer and heart disease.

Sad affects about half a million people annually, according to the British organization SADA. (SADAssociation. PO Box 989 , Steyning, BN44 3HG, England http://www.sada.org.uk/). The American Psychiatric Association says that between ten to twenty percent of the US population suffers from some form of SAD. Alaska Wellness estimates the number to be eleven million North Americans suffer from SAD and another two to three times that number from a milder version of the disease called SubSAD.

There may be more SAD sufferers today than in the past because our lifestyles are so different from those of our ancestors. Increasingly, our jobs keep us indoors and modern heating systems make many of us loathe to go outside during our free time. Additionally, shift work and modern air travel can upset our natural rhythms anytime.

The American Medical Association has done studies that show that SAD sufferers produce more melatonin in the winter months than in the summer months while non-sufferers produce the same amount of melatonin no matter the season. The extra melatonin causes symptoms of lethargy and depression. It is a similar response to the length of the day as is the response in animals that make them want to hibernate or migrate.

“[SAD] is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter,” says SADA. The symptoms can begin as early as September and usually end by March or April, depending on the latitude of the place you are living.  If you have had symptoms of SAD for three consecutive winters, chances are you suffer from the disorder. Symptoms include:

So, what is to be done about the wintertime blues? Are some of us just doomed to suffer sadness every winter, or is there a cure?

winter sunWhile there is no cure for SAD, light therapy offers the best treatment in about eighty-five percent of diagnosed cases. The lights are much brighter than ordinary light bulbs. Ordinary lighting in a home or office emits about 250 to 500 lux, and only about 100 lux at night. The minimum dose to treat SAD is 2500 lux for 2-4 hours each day, and the recommendation is usually for 10,000 lux, the brightness on a typical summer day. Treatment is usually effective in about three or four days.


Most light therapy is delivered in the form of a light box. (Some sources for light boxes are listed below.) You must have a diagnosis from an allopathic doctor, but some insurance companies will cover the costs of light boxes, which can cost from $100 upwards. If you can’t afford a light box, at least use full-spectrum bulbs.

Another allopathic treatment, which is less effective but does help some sufferers, is the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac and Paxil. Without going into too much detail, these help the SAD sufferer by allowing the neurotransmitter, serotonin, to stay in the brain synapse longer and producing a feeling of well-being. However, other types of antidepressant drugs seem to have less effect on SAD.

The following are more natural remedies for SAD:


Editor's Note: If your New Year's resolution this year includes taking off a few pound, you are not alone. Weight management is big business in today's consumer society, but taking off that extra weight is not just about diet and exercise, though these are important. In this article, registered dietician and healer, Mary Regina Asriel, continues her two-part series and describes her holistic approach to weight management.

Weight Management
through Heart Healing

Last month, in Life as a Fat Child, I reviewed my life struggle with body size and emphasized the need for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing in a successful weight management program. My clients and I use a variety of heart healing modalities to achieve and maintain desired body weight:

If you resonate with becoming and maintaining your desired weight by healing through the heart, I invite you to join our program as an individual and/or team participant. Knowing your ultimate self and aligning with universal support is a joyful experience and one that I would be honored to facilitate.

mary regina asrielMary Regina is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Nutritionist, Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Karuna Reiki Master/teacher in Asheville, North Carolina. She holds a B.S. degree in Nutrition and Food Science and a M.S. in Clinical Nutrition. She provides group and individual nutritional counseling and support on site and by telephone.  www.asrielhealing.com


Clearing Clutter - Pt. 3

The hallway and the living room provide guests with their first impressions of who we are and what we value. The hallways and foyers reflect how we feel about life--warm and inviting or restricted, inhibited, and choked off from new experiences. The living room is the symbol of our contact with the culture at large and allows for communion with our own soul. 

Clutter is a kind of visual noise similar to auditory white noise, says Karen Kingston, author of Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui. The distraction it creates may not be immediately noticeable, but as long as it's there, it masks true clarity. It is more difficult to make decisions and consequently, hold us back.

Feng shui experts tell us that clutter in the living room and hallways creates procrastination because as long as there is junk lying around, we have work to do and can't move on. They are indicative of those things in our lives that are unfinished, and they keep us stuck. Indeed, clutter can be defined as stuck energy and usually consists of useful items that are not in their places (or that have no place) and things we are holding onto that we no longer need. 

Since the dictionary definition of "pack-rat" could have my picture beside it, I find it really hard to keep the living room picked up. Similarly, in my old apartment, I had boxes of books stacked in the hallway. Letting go of some of my clutter was difficult, and I still have an inclination to stack and pack. What finally shook me from my inertia -- inertia which the stuck energy of my clutter fueled -- was that I realized I didn't want other people to visit and see my clutter. I was becoming a hermit amidst the mess.

flower vaseThe foyer/ hallway and the living room are the two areas that guest will see. They are also the two rooms where we are most likely to drop the mail, shed the coat and handbag, and kick off the shoes. Furthermore, the living room (or the family room) is the place where family and friends gather and relax at the end of the workday and on weekends. There you'll often find the remains of snack, the dropped newspaper or magazine someone was reading, and the inevitable "trackings" that scatter across a heavily traveled floor. Even for the neat-freak family, the hallway and living room are hard to keep clean.

Feng shui expert Mary Lambert calls the hallway or foyer the "mouth" of the home.  It is where guests get their first impression of your home. If it is crowded with coats, shoes, children's toys, sports gear, and other clutter, it makes the energy throughout the entire house sluggish. Says, Lambert in Clearing the Clutter for Good Feng Shui, "If you have a pile of items that are stacked right by the entrance, it symbolizes life as being a real struggle, with new opportunities barred."

The living room is both a haven for rest and tranquility and a sociable space. Positive chi will provide contentment and keep conversation flowing. Arrange the furniture so that people don't have to navigate around big pieces, and create conversational groupings. Never place chairs facing outward jutting corners or under overhead beams as this arrangement can cut the chi and cause headaches or other ailments. Keep piles of reading materials and stacks of old videos, DVDs and CDs and similar items put away in cabinets or baskets. When stacked helter-skelter, they slow down the energy and link you to the past instead of the future. Finally, use lamps and accent lighting to draw good yang energy. Candles and glassware also add positive yang energy.

According to Kathryn L. Robyn, author of Spiritual Housecleaning, “[The living room] is not a doing room. It is, in fact, the only room designed for nothing else except being. Being and being with. Cleaning it is the practice of under-standing and blessing your being-ness. That is why it produces such an opportunity for visiting with your soul, which is the part of you that does being best.”

The living room is the room in which you connect with the world through reading, music, and conversation, but here you do it intimately with family or friends. Allow it to display your being-ness by decorating it with things that you value and enjoy. As sacred space, let it express what is sacred for you. In so doing, you heal your own soul and provide healing for all those who share the space with you.

This article was based on a retreat centered around "Finding Our Home" given by Suzanne in 2004. If you would like Suzanne to do a retreat for your group, please call 828-315-9900 or email suzanne@tapestryliferesources.com.

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Jan. 2005

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Copyright 2004
Suzanne H. Eller

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winter sun Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you clean your living room, you take inventory of the stuff in your life that holds you together— and that which holds you apart.
~Kathryn L. Robyn


Peace - that was the other name for home.
~Kathleen Norris

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours."
~Robert Byrne

There is a privacy about [winter] which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.
~Ruth Stout

January is the quietest month in the garden. ... But just because it looks quiet doesn't mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.
~ Rosalie Muller Wright

Light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
~Edith Wharton

No matter how feeble the light, let it shine as best it may. The world may need just that quality of light which you have. ~ Henry C. Blinn

A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
~His Holiness, the 14th Dali Lama

The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
~Albert Einstein

A shadow-it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stomp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it.
~Shakti Gawain