Ayurveda for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

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Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

SAD is a kind of depression associated with seasonal changes. It is also called seasonal depression or winter depression or winter blues, as it is most prevalent in cold seasons; Sharad(Autumn), Hemant(Fall), Shishir (Winter)). The affliction and symptoms are different from individual to individual. The probability of its occurrence in springtime or summer is low as compared to winter.

The exact cause of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is not confirmed, but lack of sunlight is considered to be the main factor causing SAD.

Sunlight affects and, to a certain extent, directs the body biorhythm. The major effect of sunlight is on the mental level, far more intricate as compared to its visible effects on the body.

The brightness of the light is associated with hope, enthusiasm, and life whereas darkness is associated with sadness, doubts/negative feelings and even death. Lack of light or low light for a prolonged period of time may lead to depression and mood swings, even to suicidal tendencies.

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Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

The prominent symptoms are –

  • difficulty in waking up in the morning
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • oversleeping, and over-eating (which leads to weight gain)
  • the feeling of lethargy
  • lack of concentration
  • the tendency of social withdrawal
  • decreased sex drive
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss.

The combination and intensity of all the above symptom differ from one person to the other. In fact, any kind of transition from light to dark can trigger negative feelings in patients with severe Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) in Ayurveda

Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) is defined as “Avasada” in Ayurveda. Primarily, Kapha dosha is responsible for Seasonal Affective Disorders according to Ayurveda.

Each element has multiple qualities which are exhibited according to the context, just like the same word might have different meaning based on the topic, language or even tone of the voice. Kapha dosha is dominated by the elements of water and earth. In the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), features like structurelessness, instability of water and grossness, heaviness and motionlessness of earth function in an imbalanced negative light.

Role of the sun in the human physiology

According to Ayurveda, the human body is like a lotus. A lotus opens when the sun rises and closes with the sunset. Similarly, our metabolism kickstarts with the sunrise and slows down to a minimal basic level with the sunset. That is the reason why people who frequently have a late night meal suffer from chronic indigestion. It is because the powering factor for the digestion – the sun is not available. Best digestion can be achieved only at a high metabolic rate, which is absent at the night-time. Sun not only affects our bodies. The real effect of the sun is on our minds!

Ayurveda based hypothesis for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

Hypothesis -1

The human body is supposed to have 7 chakras which are symbolized as lotuses. These chakras or the power points are stimulated by the supreme light of divine wisdom. The chakras when opened in the divine light, bestow supernatural power to an individual. However, these chakras also has a basic role in physiology that they play in their dormant state. The sun has a basic effect on these chakras and helps to stimulate their basic functions. But when there is improper or inadequate exposure to the sunlight, it fails to stimulate the chakras and result in depression.

Hypothesis -1a

Another addition to the above concept is that due to improper exposure to the sun, the body faces difficulty to manage homeothermy or balance of internal temperature. Looking at the elemental level, less exposure to the sun might increase the Kapha dosha (cold, inactive). As the Kapha becomes imbalanced and stays in imbalanced condition for a long time, it will gradually incubate a group of diseases. Initially, it will hamper digestion, spread to other parts of the body. As a preventive response, the body will continuously signal to the person, through indigestion, feeling of uneasiness, frequent cold etc. However, if we fail to respond to the body’s requirements, it will take an internal course correction and lodge the disease in the least disruptive position in the body. Here the disease(imbalanced dosha) finds a loophole, the weakest dhatu in the body and starts to manifest in the form of a proper disorder. This pathogenesis is different for each person.

According to Charak, Rasa dhatu endows happiness (prassnata), Rakta gives comfort(sukha), mansa gives patience, comfort and forgiveness,meda gives comfort and a sense of prosperity, asthi provides enthusiasm, majja gives aural intelligence, and shukra bestows joy and peace. Now if one, multiple or all the dhatu are polluted by the dosha and are affected in their mental dimension, it will result in Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). In this case, this pollution will be caused initially by the absence of sun rays.

Hypothesis -1b

The body makes some crucial changes in its metabolism that help it to survive but might affect the brain or the nervous system is a negative manner. For example, a person who receives a cut in his salary, he might cut down on his recreation expenses and focus on bare survival. But he will not be happy. Some people might become aggressive, some might become anxious and other might just give up. The ones who give up are the ripe candidates for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). For this reason, manas prakrati is crucial, because it frames the expression of physical inadequacy in the body.

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Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) according to Ayurveda

The possible causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) can have 2 sources – mind and the body. Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) is not a temporary disease like a seasonal cough and cold. It needs a build-up for several years and/or multiple factors aggravation.

Mental Factors

  • Improper brought-up (ignorance by parents, unhappy family history)
  • Childhood abuse(mild-severe)
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Unhappy relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Suppressed anger
  • Feeling of worthlessness

The mind is the absolute authority over the body. There is always the primary contribution of mental factors in the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). Most of these causal factors also appear as the prominent symptoms in individual patients.

Most of the physical symptoms of  Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) are mental projections of the individual.

Physiological Causes

Vitiation of the Kapha dosha is the primary cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). Now depending on the body type(prakrati), food, lifestyle, general health and personality (manas prakrati) of an individual, other doshas like vata and pitta also can be involved. Kapha prakrati people are more prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD).

Causes of Kapha Vitiation

  • Lack of sun exposure/ excess cold climate
  • Regular consumption of heavy, oily or incompatible food
  • Improper sleep pattern (sleeping in the daytime/ during daybreak or sunset)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Chronic indigestion

Preventive Ayurveda for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

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Preventive Dinacharya(daily routine) for the Light-dependent Depression

All kinds of light change leave some effects on every individual. The daily solar transition periods are also very important in this context. In Indian tradition, it is considered auspicious and important to light the lamps during the dusk. It is considered inauspicious to sleep during the transition periods of the day like the sunset or sunrise, esp. the sunset.

According to Ayurveda, all kinds of starts are governed by the Kapha Dosha. Both sunrise( beginning of the day) and sunset( beginning of the night) are the time for rise in Kapha Dosha. If the Kapha dosha is vitiated then it might lead to light-dependent depression. People who sleep during these occasions might get Kapha vitiation leading to SAD in the long term.

It is believed that Tamsic or evil tendencies flare up during these transition periods, esp. in the evening. However, these are not external demonic factors, but internal mental factors. Probably people, since ancient times, have experienced mood swings or negative thinking during the daily transition periods. Therefore almost all religions recommend morning and evening prayers.

Ancients used mythology to propagate the preventive therapy for depression due to daily sunlight changes. One of such Hindu beliefs is that Gods visit the houses to bless us in morning and evening time, so this is the time for worship rituals with devotional songs, dancing etc. All this helps prevent the depressive feelings; also it restores the faith that someone is there to help us in all conditions and this reinforces hope.

Phototherapy is the treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). Sunbath, as and when possible is a great tool, except in Sharad (autumn), as it is the time of Pitta vitiation.

Apart from the above rules, one must observe some social codes of conduct that can help to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD).

Small daily rituals like daily prayers before the meals, family time (not family TV time), taking blessings of elders every day ( Hindu ritual of touching feet of elders in the morning) etc. help to bring the family together. A happy and closely-knit family is the best remedy to prevent all kinds of mental disorders.

Preventive Ritucharya for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

The best cure for depression is happy engagement!

But normally we are not able to be happy without a reason! If one is able to attain permanent peace of mind and happiness without a cause then there will be no Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) for him. Inner stability promotes outer stability.

But till the time we are in the process of achievement of inner stability, there are other effective ways to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) during different seasons.

Sexual Intercourse

According to Ayurveda, winter is the best season for sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is a good way to keep the mind and body active. Feeling of being wanted and being loved can eradicate depression to a large extent.

But sex has a flipside. If one engages in sex with a touch of artifice, then it may further deepen and darken the negative moods. So if you are using prostitution, sexting or sex-toys, there is a lower probability of satisfaction and happiness. Sex overall has a very temporary effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). It may enhance the feeling of dissatisfaction and cause more depression in the long term. It is first on the list because it comes first to the minds of the majority of the population!

Casual dating helps to remove the feeling of solitude, esp. in people who are alone or staying away from their dear ones. Blind dating is a good way for people who have bad experiences in relationships because they tend to have less faith in known people.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) mostly affects people during the winter or rains, when the sun exposure is less and there is overall low mobility due to snow, rains, cold waves etc. Celebrations provide the required entertainment and engagement during these times and prevent the depression from setting in.

Cold seasons like Sharad (autumn), Hemant (fall) and Shishir (winter) are periods that have maximum festivals in most of the religious traditions. Lot of festivals like Christmas, New Year, Dushera, Diwali (New moon night of Kartik month) are celebrated across the world in during the cold seasons. Most of the Hindu festivals fall in the darkest period of the moon.

Deepavali or Diwali is one festival that especially focuses on the light decorations. It comprises rituals like Deepdana( donation of light/lamps), full night worship( sleeping vitiates Kapha dosha during certain nights, therefore sleep is avoided, instead people devote the night for worship rituals).

Most of the festivals have some special tradition or ritual attached to it. The uniqueness of each festival arouses excitement. Besides, it gives another engagement to most of the people with generally uninteresting lives, since the preparation for each festival are usually different, in terms of delicacies or costumes or traditional dances and lots more. All these festivals gratify our senses with great food, new clothes, beautiful decorations, and lights. They make a huge contribution to maintaining our mental health.

Besides, in Hindus, this period is the time considered auspicious for weddings, which are generally celebrated with huge pomp and show, and relieve us of monotony and depression.

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Spiritual Practices

Apart from religious festivals and other celebrations, one thing that helps invariably is the faith in divine (it helps, like a placebo, even if it might not exist for non-believers). The faith helps to keep up the hope under all circumstances.

  • Many spiritual practices like singing devotional songs, dancing etc. generate a positive self-image and help to dispel depression.
  • Meditation creates balance in thought process and is one of the most important self-improvement tools.
  • Satsang (company of saints or good people) is another way of killing depression. In good company, you are exposed to positive thoughts and environment.

Ideally, spiritual practices are the best resource, having a most permanent effect on the mental health.

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Depression may set in when you have a low engagement in physical activities. A sport definitely is a very positive way to employ oneself when free. You can play by yourself or with others. The fun generated out of the game is a great resource to stay positive. Sports is esp. relevant for kinesthetic people suffering from depression.

The important thing is that more outdoor sports or sports ensuring physical activity should be taken up. Sports requiring teamwork are great, as they keep you socially engaged. The perspiration out of rigorous sports activity gives you benefits of both physical exercise and mental relaxation.  Video games should always be a second choice.

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Music is a great way to keep you entertained and busy. But the kind of music you choose is important, blues or sad music might not a great help. Positive and light music has amazing results on aural people in dispelling depression.

Indian music has a classification of seasonal music (music recommended for a particular season)

Ideal raga for the seasons

Sargam or 7 sounds are the basics of Indian classical music. Different notes of these 7 sounds, used in different combinations constitute different Ragas.

Daytime is divided into 8 parts and each part is called a Prahar. It is of 4 hours duration.

Each raga is said to have a specific best time or prahar for singing when that particular set of sounds is soothing or healthy for the body.

For more details on the timings of Ragas, please refer http://uday.caltech.edu/raga.html

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Intensive engagement in any of the expressive arts like dancing, painting, sculpting etc. are great ways to prevent SAD.

Curative Ayurveda for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

Ayurveda offers curative treatment based on Ayurvedic herbal preparations, a healthy diet and lifestyle, Ayurvedic cleansing therapies and Satvavjaya(Ayurvedic psycotherapy). The treatment is tailormade according to individual requirements.

Hope this article helped you with information on Ayurvedic options for Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD).

Please Contact for more information on Ayurvedic treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

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