Balance December 2017 - 37

NEUROCHEMICAL ROMANCE

O

ne thing needs to be made
clear from the outset: I
have a tendency towards
low moods and drugs are
probably the reason why.
This makes the winter blues a gloomy reality
to me. I miss the sun. I miss warmth. I miss
long days and heightened energy.
More specifically, I miss the get-up-and-go
version of myself that seems to come out of
hibernation around May-June every year. You
as well? We're not alone. Seasonal Affective
Disorder (SAD) affects thousands across the UK
every winter and it's not just misanthropes with
a penchant for narcotics who are suffering.
With hindsight and sobriety I have gathered a
passing understanding of how certain lifestyle
choices have affected my brain chemistry and
have decided to go on a quest to find ways to
boost my mood naturally.

GET HIGH ON DOWNTIME
My dalliances with drugs (amphetamines
to boost concentration at work; other white
substances definitely not for work) and personal
disposition (anxious, depressive tendencies)
have combined to make me something of a
joyless 30-year-old. I wouldn't say I'm especially
gloomy, but nor am I particularly happy. In the
absence of easy excitement, I have to work at it.
It's for that reason that I start my quest to
score some legal highs with much needed expert
insight from someone entirely more normal.
Psychologist James King is a performance
coach to highly functioning athletes and highflying CEOs alike. He also happens to have a no
BS approach that suits my sceptical sensibilities.
'It's all about finding what works for you
personally,' he says. 'Don't use the kind of
clich├ęd advice you find online. Think about
what really makes you feel relaxed and don't
beat yourself up about doing it.'
We discover that, for me, that includes reading
the paper and carving holes into foes during
gaming marathons. 'If it's kept to controllable
amounts of time, then it's beneficial,' says
James. 'No matter how hard you work, you'll
be OK if you make time for downtime.'
Day one. I've integrated James' advice. The
alarm goes off half an hour earlier than usual,
I grab the paper and make myself a coffee. I
must admit to a degree of apprehension. As it
stands, mood: normal. Energy: pretty rubbish.
High? Not yet. Though I don't really expect The
Guardian crossword and two hours of Fifa to
hit me like a line of cocaine.
King suggests my new routine of making
time for things I enjoy will open me up to allow

December 2017 BA LA N CE

a sense of wellbeing to exist. I'll get back to
you on that. In the meantime, I need to do
something about my lack of energy.

FIND YOUR RHYTHM
You may have heard of the circadian rhythm.
We know this internal clock governs our
sleeping patterns and, as a consequence,
our energy, but now scientists are starting to
realise it also affects our organs. In terms of
mood, its role is quite simple: your circadian
rhythm affects your hormones, the balance
of which underpins how you feel.

DURING DARKER
MONTHS, THE LACK
OF VITAMIN D COULD
EVEN BE REDUCING
SEROTONIN LEVELS
When the sun goes in, a few things start
going on inside your body. The first comes
from a lack of natural light, which confuses
your sleepy brain. Then there's vitamin D.
Billions around the world are reckoned to be
D-ficient. According to a study undertaken at
the University of Melbourne (and the Aussies
know their sunshine science), during darker
months, the lack of vit-D from sunshine
could even be reducing serotonin - a moodregulating neurotransmitter - in your brain.
So it stands to reason that this is one pill
worth taking. I scour labdoor.com, a group that
tests the efficacy of pills and powders, and learn
that Carlson Labs D-3 is among the best on the
market. It sets me back more than a tenner,
which, ironically, puts me in a foul mood.
One of the most study-backed ways to boost
your mood during winter is blue light therapy,
it seems. After turning my nose up at a plethora
of ugly sunrise alarm clocks and table lamps,
I discover Philips Hue bulbs, which are techy
and stylish enough to suit my love for both
gadgetry and home decor. I've programmed
the bulbs with the Hue app and they now wake
me gradually with a bright light every morning
and put me to sleep with a relaxing, warmer
coloured setting at night. Again, far from
cheap, they'd better work.

TAKE YOUR HAPPY PILLS
A week of earlier, better lit mornings and some
structured downtime has definitely set me at a
more even level. Energy: better. Mood: calmer,

37


http://www.labdoor.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance December 2017

Balance December 2017 - 1
Balance December 2017 - 2
Balance December 2017 - 3
Balance December 2017 - 4
Balance December 2017 - 5
Balance December 2017 - 6
Balance December 2017 - 7
Balance December 2017 - 8
Balance December 2017 - 9
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Balance December 2017 - 11
Balance December 2017 - 12
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