Healthy living: Proactive mental health

Now that the family dog has calmed down after its firework-induced bewilderment and children are sorting their bounty while stores unload old Halloween candy for a couple bucks per pickup truck, Christmas store flyers have begun to appear like a small, expanding rash for which there is no ointment.

For some, including me, it is a time to be aware of changing moods and behaviours that, subtly at first, can sneak in with the inevitable winter of our grey and wet discontent. It is a time to be mindful of habits and feelings that can feed seasonal sadness and depression.

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With a lifetime of dealing with anxiety and its nefarious sibling, depression, I have recently found a proactive attitude toward seasonal affective disorder, in all its shadowy forms, to be effective when the days become shorter, the nights colder and an ark seems like a viable mode of transport. Sounds simple enough, but it comes from the, “Easier said than done,” and, “Do as I say, not as I do,” folder.

There will always be quick fixes for any and every ailment that affects the mind and body, from doctors on television with questionable credentials to pharmaceuticals (essential in some cases but overused in many), and claims on the internet that a cure is only one click and a smaller bank account away.
However, similar to a lot of things in life, the simplest, most basic ways of doing things are the most effective, healthiest and least costly. In fact, for an unlimited time only, this treatment for seasonal affective disorder is free: exercise and connection.

From a gentle stroll around the block with your best friend to enjoying swimming, skating and weight training at Powell River Recreation Complex, exercise combined with a little dash of socialization increases serotonin and dopamine in our brains and transforms us from seasonal-affected sad to exercise-affected happy. The only real side effects are looking and feeling better, diminished anxiety and a sense of connection to this beautiful place we are fortunate to call home, and a closeness to people who breathe life into this community.

Thinking of mental health as a collective, social engagement, instead of something that occurs in isolation, is like a rising tide that lifts all the boats in the harbour equally, especially when the ferries are tied up in mid-winter winds and rain.

Robert Skender is a local writer who is determined to survive another winter on the west coast.

Copyright © 2017 Powell River Peak


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