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Connections: Meatballs for SAD

By Jeff Martin

Iím sad.

This week marks what has to be the second straight week of cloudy skies, rain and biting wind. The only thing missing are meatballs.

This isnít easy for me. For five years, I lived in an area that had unrelenting sunshine. Once, in October, I counted 28 straight days of clear skies. The sun was a constant. The temperature remained at 73 degrees. Indian summer. Indian summer. Indian summer.

And more Indian summer.

When I moved to Western New York, I was warned. Reach late October and the sky goes dark for six months. Moody by nature, I was concerned. What affect would such a climate have on a person who was, even in the midst of a sunlight bath, a bit melancholy?

I grew up in Northeast Ohio, so I was accustomed to such conditions. I remember it being difficult, especially when late winter arrived. I felt like I was walking with a noose around my neck. I slept more. I ate more. I read the novels of Dostoyevsky, an author I could never read in the hey-day of summer sun.

Recently Iíve been researching some ways to combat what the medical community is beginning to acknowledge more and more as a legitimate physiological condition: SAD, or seasonal affective disorder.

Basically, three things happen during SAD: your biological clock is out of whack, interrupting your circadian rhythm. Should you sleep or get up? Your brain is confused and thus you fall into mild, even severe depression. Both serotonin and melatonin levels, which regulate mood and sleep ability, are reduced.

It would be easy to jump over to your physician and get some meds, but there are other ways to defeat this formidable foe. First and foremost is to simply accept this environmental condition and get on with it. Do not let the overcast sky and biting winds keep you from taking a walk, which physicians at the Mayo Clinic suggest as the single most important activity you can engage in as a way to minimize the damage wrought by SAD. Iíve discovered that bundling up and trudging up the street in cold conditions invigorates my body and mind. If you can find a nice woodland path, thatís even better.

According to the Mayo Clinicís website, taking a long walk, eating lunch at a nearby park or simply spending some amount of time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning is key. Not only does the body respond positively to the natural light, it also tells the body that you will not be shuttered in and defeated by meteorological adversity.

Exercising, too, is important. Purchase an exercise bike or Nordic Track system. If you canít do that, run up and down basement steps with hand weights. I did yoga and general weight resistance routines when I was unable to utilize exercise equipment.

Keep your house or apartment open to the light by cracking blinds, trimming tree branches that block sunlight. If you can afford it, add skylights to your home and sit close to windows while at work or home.

Diet is important as well. Eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C and D. Citrus drinks are good, too, and Iíve personally found that spicy foods smack my moods in the face and cheer me up.

These are just a few suggestions, and if you, dear readers, have more, feel free to drop me a line.

Especially if you have a good recipe for meatballs.

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