Why you feel blue, & What to do about it
Today I feel a bit like a hypocrite, offering advice on how not to be battered and buried by the October blues. I am that person who whines and complains about summer ending. I am a summer girl! For years I have thought long and hard about why I start feeling so blue at the thought of summer fading away, with autumn nipping at its heels. I’m not sure if I always felt October blues or if it became more pronounced after an incident that happened to me on a sunny October day, many years ago. It makes sense that a negative event would cause a negative association but I’d like to think that I have (or can) put that behind me, and leave it in the past where it belongs and move on. I mean, look outside! How beautiful are those trees right now? There are some absolutely stunning flaming-orange trees, and bright yellow ones that put a golden glow on everthing around it. I truly do appreciate and look forward to the colors of October. So why then do some of us have to constantly fight that underlying heaviness and melancholy that happens as we inch further and further toward winter? If you suffer or know someone who suffers from October blues, you are going to learn a lot about connections (ie: neurotransmitters) that can really improve that heavy feeling of melancholy.
Exactly what is it that you’re feeling?
Whether you’re feeling “meh”, or melancholy, or truly depressed as fall approaches, know that there is a physical, scientific reason that you are affected this way, and you can take steps to remove, improve or manage your October blues.
Meh (/mɛ/) is an interjection used as an expression of indifference or boredom. It is often regarded as a verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. The use of the term “meh” shows that the speaker is apathetic, uninterested, or indifferent to the question or subject at hand. It is occasionally used as an adjective, meaning something is mediocre or unremarkable.
The Oxford Dictionary description of melancholy is “a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause”.
Depression is further along the scale and causes a person to feel extreme sadness and hopelessness. I’m not suggesting that a bit of sunshine and good food can cure depression. I’m saying that the things I’ve discovered can help improve mood. If you’re feeling ongoing depression, I recommend you see a doctor and/or mental health specialist to manage your symptoms.
Through my research on October blues, I made some exciting discoveries. If my brain was hooked up to a brain imaging machine it would look like a pinball machine, firing here, pinging there, lights flashing, etc. Wow! The connections I’m making right now are exciting and promising.
I think on some level, we all know that sunshine, eating well, and exercise are important for general good health but do you know why? Let’s look into the science of serotonin, and why we feel down during the autumn and winter months.
Serotonin is the big one. It is a chemical produced by nerve cells to send signals between nerve cells. I know that serotonin is in our blood, but I recently learned (hence the pinball analogy) that 95% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Did you know that? This in particular is a personal “aha!” moment. Serotonin affects the whole body, not just our mood. According to Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin#functions, seratonin is the chemical that helps with digestion and sleeping. This is what serotonin does in our bodies:
Bowel movements: Serotonin is found primarily in the body’s stomach and intestines. It helps control your bowel movements and function.
Mood: Serotonin in the brain is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. Low levels of the chemical have been associated with depression, and increased serotonin levels brought on by medication are thought to decrease arousal.
Nausea: Serotonin is part of the reason why you become nauseated. Production of serotonin rises to push out noxious or upsetting food more quickly in diarrhea. The chemical also increases in the blood, which stimulates the part of the brain that controls nausea.
Sleep: This chemical is responsible for stimulating the parts of the brain that control sleep and waking. Whether you sleep or wake depends on what area is stimulated and which serotonin receptor is used.
Blood clotting: Blood platelets release serotonin to help heal wounds. The serotonin causes tiny arteries to narrow, helping form blood clots.
Sexual function: Low levels of serotonin are associated with increased libido, while increased serotonin levels are associated with reduced libido.
NOTE: Low levels of serotonin may also make you more prone to fibromyalgia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/ a heightened sensitivity to pain in muscles throughout your body.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE:
Try to spend 10 to 30 minutes outside every day. Sunlight boosts vitamin D levels needed to produce serotonin. That gives you your sun exposure and your exercise!
Eat healthy. Whole foods, high fibre and less sugar will improve your gut health and your mood very quickly.
Touch is very important. Get a massage or hug someone special (someone from your covid “bubble”). Human touch reduces cortisol and increases serotonin.
If tactile experiences do it for you, light a candle, curl up under a soft blanket, drink some hot chocolate made from scratch, and watch a funny movie. Oh, and buy yourself some pretty flowers to brighten up your environment.
Keep a routine sleep schedule.
Do something fun. A fellow blogger, Laurie Dunbar gives us these suggestions in her blog https://doneworkingca.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/clipped-wings/:
“Take a trip through a museum. There are some excellent choices, such as Canada’s Virtual Museum: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/home/ , or the MET Museum: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features , or the Louvre: https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne, or Ontario’s McMichael Gallery: https://mcmichael.com/event/virtual-tours/. Any museum or gallery you can think of will probably have a virtual tour of some kind. FREE.
Learn something new through Coursera, an online link to courses available from a variety of educational resources: https://www.coursera.org/ . Just enter a search term such as “Art History”, “Archaeology”, or “Ecology” or whatever may interest you, and a list of available courses will appear, most of them offered for FREE.”
Laurie also suggests that we “Check out Ontario resorts at https://resortsofontario.com/”.
I don’t know about you, but I learned a lot, and I’ve suddenly got a heap of ideas to keep myself busy, and happy while I wait for spring!
Thanks for reading. Check back every Saturday afternoon to read my next post.
Carol Paino~ Parts Of Ourselves