Beat the Winter Blues ..without Pills; (1) All White for Some: Getting out and about, Such as a Short Walk in Your Local Park, Can Counter Depression and Boost Self-Esteem (2) Pose for Thought: Yoga Involves Meditation

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Beat the Winter Blues ..without Pills; (1) All White for Some: Getting out and about, Such as a Short Walk in Your Local Park, Can Counter Depression and Boost Self-Esteem (2) Pose for Thought: Yoga Involves Meditation


Byline: SOPHIE GOODCHILD

MANY of us are prone to feeling low at this time of year. Reasons include dark days, grey skies, broken New Year resolutions and recession-related anxiety. So it is no surprise that Monday was officially billed as the most depressing day of the year. Pills can help with clinical depression or conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But many of us just need a mood boost, not anti-depressants. New research even suggests that medicating sadness interferes with the body's natural defences.

Professor Jerome Wakefield, co-author of The Loss of Sadness, says being sad can actually make us stronger and the blues are a way of preventing us from chronic exhaustion. So what are the new ways of keeping upbeat without resorting to prescription drugs? Mindfulness therapy is the latest craze among A-listers.

Based on Buddhist principles, it teaches you how to appreciate life, not just rush around achieving things. And tomorrow, mental health charity Mind launches a [pounds sterling]12 million campaign, Get Moving, aimed at energising the mind as well as your heart and lungs. Hobbies that bring you in contact with nature such as birdwatching will also revive your soul. Here are tips from experts on how to beat the blues.

RESILIENCE TRAINING Nina Grunfeld, self-help guru (www.lifeclubs.co.uk)

"Most of us need a mental pick-me-up at this time of year and the threat of job losses means there's so much demotivation going around. Resilience training leaves your brain razor-sharp and with a clear direction. There are similarities with talking therapies that challenge negative ways of thinking. But this approach is based more on co-coaching rather than group therapy. At the workshop participants pair up and brain-storm strategies to deal with life motivation issues such as getting a new job or finding a new partner. They really discover what personally motivates them to achieve their goals. The pairs also have a list of questions designed to focus the brain and get to the bottom of why they are demotivated.

The workshop lasts a whole day and people leave feeling confident, powerful and positive. " Top tip: say your worries out loud to hear how silly they might be.

THE READING CURE Blake Morrison, author and fellow of the Royal Society of Literature "Being absorbed in a book can transform your mood.

Reading novels is particularly good for building confidence in people who are depressed or ...

agoraphobic. People identify with the characters and these 'carry' their own burdens for them. In some way, novels also inform your moral universe because you're exposed to other people's values. They help your decision-making. I just gave a talk for the Wellcome Trust on the emotional bonuses of reading and there's been work done at the Liverpool Reader Centre that shows how reading stimulates specific parts of the brain.

There's also evidence that braindamaged people can improve their vocabulary through reading. But reading should not be a burden. The idea is to feel enthralled." Top tip: switch off the TV for 20 minutes that's the time it takes to get hooked on a good novel.

MEDITATION Dr Raj Joshi, alternative health guru (www.thejoshiclinic.com)

"Meditation has been used in yoga in India for thousands of years and is the cornerstone of Buddhist practice.

There are several theories on why meditation helps improve mood. Some experts believe it helps release endorphins or feelgood hormones. The hormones that meditation .

Pose for thought: yoga involves meditation affects are the endorphins created by the body as a natural painkiller. Some studies show these are elevated much the same as during acupuncture and massage. Our emotions and how we react to stress can have profound detrimental effects on our health. A stressful life can lead to digestive problems like acid reflux, as well as depression. …

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