Winter Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder – Natural Qi Winter Newsletter

Natural Qi Newsletter
Embracing better health in the new year!

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Melani Bolyai, New York Licensed Acupuncturist


We’re now in the thick of winter–a time of rest and natural restoration. The shorter days and chill of the season call us to slow down, conserve our resources and take extra care of our health. Unfortunately, though, our busy lives don’t always allow us to do this! Subsequently, winter may seem like the season when we feel most drained and prone to illness.

If you are feeling the stress of winter, or just want to support your body in its natural rejuvenation, acupuncture can be the perfect way to relax and restore your body to natural health. It lowers stress, fights bugs, combats winter sluggishness, and can help you feel balanced in your body.

It’s a new year–you deserve the gift of health. As always, I’m available to answer any questions. I look forward to speaking to you soon!


Beat the Winter Blues

Days are shorter, the weather is colder, and winter is upon us. As we move into the thick of the season, you may have noticed a mini-hibernation happening in your life. It’s harder to get out of bed. You crave heavier foods. You feel less motivated to exercise or get out and explore the world. While slowing down in the wintertime is normal, the “winter blues” can become a serious problem, manifesting in a range of symptoms including fatigue, increased stress, anxiety, headaches, sleep disturbances, concentration problems, low libido, moodiness, and appetite disturbances.

If you experience winter-related depression symptoms, you are not alone. Twenty percent of Americans suffer from mild winter depression. Another six percent experience severe seasonal depression, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). Women and younger adults are especially susceptible to these mood changes.

While no one is sure exactly what causes winter depression, experts speculate it’s related to the lack of daylight in the winter months. Shorter days can disturb a person’s circadian rhythms, decrease melatonin production, and decrease seratonin in the brain. These disturbances can be further affected by hormones, stress levels, and a genetic predisposition towards depression.

Traditional Chinese Medicine treats winter depression as an imbalance. In Chinese medicine, everything has a yin and yang energy. Yang energy is characterized by activity, warmth, and brightness. Yin energy is characterized by passivity, coolness and dark. Optimum health occurs when there is a balance between the two.

A perfect example of the yin-yang model is the changing of seasons; the brightness, abundance and warmth of summer cycle with the darkness, restoration, and cool of winter. As nature shows us, it is healthy and normal to experience cycles between yin and yang energy. This metaphor holds as a model for the human body; body cycles must be balanced, and disease may occur when a normal body cycles are disrupted by yin and yang going out of balance.

In the case of winter depression, the body’s yin energy has become too abundant. While it is normal wintertime behavior to gravitate toward restoration, quiet, and reflection, venturing too far in this direction can actually become draining. For example, slowing down can become lethargy, or reflection can become social isolation. In time, the body’s systems, rhythms, hormones and qi become off-balance, causing the patient suffering.

If you are experiencing winter depression, there is help! These simple lifestyle changes can support you in reclaiming your health.

  • Get exercise. Regular physical activity can kick start your body and restore your physical and emotional balance.
  • Get outside. Taking a walk outside gives you a change in perspective and exposes you to valuable sunlight–both of which can lift your mood.
  • Eat healthy foods. Though you may crave fats and sugars, too much of these foods can actually leave you feeling more sluggish and low.
  • Try something new. Cultivating new interests and passions can uplift your moods, your hope, and your sense of connection to the world.
  • Stay connected. Maintaining friendships and family relationships will nourish your self-worth and sense of happiness.
  • Set a schedule. Regular schedules can help you motivate when it’s tempting to avoid exercise, outdoor activity, social engagements, etc.
  • Get Acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments can help restore balance to the body’s qi, hormones and natural rhythms and help you reclaim your sense of health.

Other treatments may include light therapy, and, in a Western medical world, medication. I suggest speaking to a Western physician if you are interested in learning more about these treatment options.

If you are interested in learning more about treating winter depression with Chinese medicine, I’d be happy to talk to you. Please do not hesitate to contact me to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions and concerns. There is no need for you to suffer from winter depression any longer!

Lickin’ Depression: Feeling blue? I can help!

Studies show that having a pet can help you feel better if you are suffering from depression. Our unconditional love and affection can alleviate loneliness, increase self-esteem, and help you feel connected to the world around you.

Having a pet also has physical benefits. If you are lucky enough to own a dog like me, you get exercise when we go on walks. If you are a snuggler, you may be pleased to know that petting your animal lowers your blood pressure!

If you can’t have a pet of your own, think about volunteering at an animal shelter, or visiting a friend’s pet. We’re waiting to shower you with love!

White Bean, Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

On blustery days, the best way to kick the chill out and warm your body to the core is with a hearty warm full-flavored soup. For an absolutely delicious winter soup, try this Sweet Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup!

1 can white cannelloni beans
rosemary (fresh is better but dried is ok)
1 small onion, quartered
1 TB Olive Oil
2 small leeks, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 head roasted garlic (this is tedious pre-prep, you could also use a few cloves fresh, minced)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 ” cubes
1 bunch kale (stems removed, shredded)
1 1/2 stock (veg ok)
black pepper


Place drained beans, rosemary (equiv to 1 fresh sprig), and onion in 6 cups water. Cover and bring to boil over med-hi heat. Simmer 20 minutes, drain and toss onion and rosemary. Save beans.

Heat Olive Oil in 6 qt saucepan on med heat until hot but not smoking. Add Leeks, 1 sprig rosemary, and garlic (3 fresh minced or whole head roasted). Cook 5 minutes. Add Sweet Potato, cook @ 8 minutes until soft. Add Kale, cook 4 minutes until wilted. Add Stock, cook 10 mins until potato tender. Add reserved beans; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until heated through.

If you have questions, or would like to discuss anything you read here, please feel free to contact me. Take Care and Be Well!

Melani Bolyai
Natural Qi Acupuncture and Herbs

phone: 917-533-2097

Winter 2008