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Overcoming Those Winter Blues continued

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Physiological Interventions

Low to moderate intensity physical activity, 30 to 90 minutes every day, induces positive changes in our immune system, says John Seifert, PhD, associate professor of exercise science at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn. This translates into fewer sick days from the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections.

But not only can your physical well-being be improved through activity, but symptoms of depression, tension, and anger, all of which may be more common during this season, can also be minimized through daily physical activity.

"Physical activity is a great combatant for depression," says outdoor adventure expert Brian Brawdy. "An easy walk through the park, a weekend hike in a local forest, or simply catching a sunset now and then, are great ways to keep your body and mind fresh and healthy. Hibernation is great for bears, not so for humans."

Acupuncture, an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine which involves the insertion of tiny, hair-like needles into specific points along the body, is an ideal way to move your energy and lift your spirit, says Anne Mok, acupuncture supervisor at the Brownsville Multiservice Family Health Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Although acupuncture treatments are always tailored to the individual client, one specific point on top of the head, known as G20, has a "lifting" effect, says Mok, which will leave you feeling "more alive, more awakened."

Deep Breathing
We all know how to breathe, but too many of us breathe with short, shallow breaths. The less oxygen that flows through our body, the more tense we feel, says Adrian Calabrese, PhD, a holistic therapist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and author of 10 Spiritual Steps to a Magical Life: Meditations and Affirmations for Personal Growth and Happiness.

A daily deep breathing meditation of just one minute in the morning and one minute in the evening (of course, more won't hurt you) will remove much of the clutter in your brain. Deep breathing also calms you down when you've got that restless, bored "cabin fever" feeling, while also restoring energy to sluggish cells.

Massage can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and perhaps even boost your mood, says Susan Lang, co-author with Michael E. Thase, MD, of Beating the Blues: New Approaches to Overcoming Dysthmia and Chronic Mild Depression.

Massage can help reduce muscle tension and promote pleasure, says Lang, something that many people with a low level of depression lack.

Muscle Relaxation
The winter blues consist of both depression and stress, says Dan Johnston, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Ga. Although we can't live stress-free, we can learn to undo what stress does to us.

The following relaxation exercise quickly reduces muscle tension throughout your body. Practice this simple, 10-minute exercise every day, says Johnston, and winter stress won't take its toll on you:

  • Sitting comfortably in a chair, make a fist with your hands.
  • Hold the tension for 10 seconds and then relax.
Do the same thing with the biceps.
  • Raise both arms and create tension.
  • Hold the pose for 10 seconds and then relax.
  • Work your way up to your face and forehead and then down to your chest and belly, and then down to your legs and to your toes.
  • Create and hold tension in all the major muscle groups.
When you are finished, you will have pushed your muscles into a state of relaxation.

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