Seasonal Affective Disorder-Mind Body Therapies

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Seasonal Affective Disorder Mind Body Therapies

We live in a hectic world constantly surrounded by things that assault our senses and cause stress.  Mind body therapies such as Yoga, Meditation, Massage, Talk Therapies and many others are a vital part of preventing and treating all  types of mental health problems.


A recent publication in the Depression Anxiety medical journal  reviewed the evidence that Yoga can help improve symptoms of depression.  The study reviewed controlled trials that involved a total of 619 patients and concluded that although the methodology of some of the studies was poor , yoga has lots of potential as a secondary treatment for people with depression or depressive disorders.

Sleep and Touch Therapy

Depression is often found in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. Patient QI found a study that assessed the effects of sleep, aromatherapy, music and touch therapy on  fibromyalgia and depression symptoms. The two year study included 162 patients which were separated into two therapy groups and one control group.  Results showed that touch-music-aromatherapy gave the largest reduction in depressive symptoms followed by the sleep-music-aromatherapy group and there was a slight reduction in the control group. There was clear improvement in symptoms such as restless sleep, headache, morning fatigue, exhaustion, crying and stomach/bowel problems.


Jasmine oil is one of the classic aromatherapy treatments for stimulating and invigorating better moods. Patient QI found a study that investigated the effects of jasmine oil massage on the arousal level of the autonomic nervous system.  Forty healthy people were included in the study and split into two groups.  The treatment group were massaged with jasmine oil aromatherapy and the control group were massaged non aromatic oil.  The blood pressure, pulse rate, blood oxygen saturation, breathing rate and skin temperature of the participants were measured before and after massage treatment.   Participants also rated their own emotional state based on criteria such as relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood and alertness. Results showed that the jasmine oil group had increased breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and blood pressure compared to the control group. On the emotional level, the jasmine oil group rated themselves as being more alert, vigorous and less relaxed than the people in the control group. Jasmine oil can clearly have a stimulating invigorating effect on individuals and be used to help relieve the symptoms of depression.

Negative Air Ions

Air ionisation has been a study area for many years in particular the association of negative ions and mood.  Patient QI found the most recent publication was a review of the published studies to date (Jan 2013 in Brit M Psychiatry).  The review concluded that studies did not show a clear effect of negative ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep or personal comfort.  However negative ionization was associated with lower ratings of depression. Patients with seasonal or chronic depression responded extremely well to high density negative ionization. Low density ionization worked for seasonal depression but not for chronic depression.

Light Therapy

SAD can be treated effectively with light therapy. A review of studies in 2012 found that light therapy was as effective a treatment as antidepressants. Additionally, most patients found light therapy acceptable and experienced clinical improvement within one to two weeks after the start of treatment.  The effects of light for people suffering with SAD can be almost immediate. In a placebo controlled trial design a single hour of bright light therapy was found to reduce self reported depression scores on two validated scoring instruments for depression. Another randomised controlled trial with 73 women who suffered from SAD found that the bright white light was most effective in reducing remission rates – that’s to say that the women given bright white light felt better for longer. This study also looked at the effects of negative ions on depression associated with SAD and while they found that women in the study who had been given high levels of negative ions felt better than those given the placebo, the result wasn’t significant so more research is needed to test the effectiveness of ionisation of the air.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is effective in treating depression. It has been used to treat SAD and found to be effective as a supplement to antidepressants and light therapy.One small study of 23 people compared standard light therapy, with CBT and a combination of both, in a randomised control trial and found CBT, particularly in combination with light therapy, appeared to improve long-term outcome regarding symptom severity. The researchers found that no CBT-treated participant, with or without light, experienced a full SAD relapse compared to over 60% of those treated with light alone.  Another study looked at the long term effects of CBT. The study randomised 69 participants to different six week long treatments including CBT, light therapy and a combinations of both found that participants treated with CBT alone showed the most improvement in their depressive symptoms and this improvement was uniquely associated with less severe depressive symptoms the next winter.

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