Occasionally, when I feel wired before bedtime, I will sprinkle a little lavender oil on my pillow. I believe its very soothing, pleasing aroma helps me relax and fall asleep faster. But how helpful is it?
According to the study, Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students, done at the Department of Nursing, Keukdong College, Chungcheongbuk-Do, Korea:
According to the study results, it can be concluded that the lavender fragrance had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in women college students. Repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression.
Interesting findings, though preliminary. Another study on lavender from Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine showed that:
Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol and improved CFVR in healthy men. These findings suggest that lavender aromatherapy has relaxation effects and may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation.
This sounds a little more convincing, since they measured blood cortisol levels and coronary flow velocity reserves, which are more objective measures of stress. If you have a little trouble sleeping, it certainly can’t hurt to sprinkle a little lavender oil on your pillow or to use lavender aromatherapy to help you relax. But if you have severe insomnia or depression, seek medical help immediately.
This is one of the strangest potential treatments for depression I’ve read about in a long time. I do wonder though that if it does work, can it be adapted for improving athletic performance(or general life performance) in the non-depressed? According to Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression:
Depression is a debilitating mood disorder that is among the top causes of disability worldwide. It can be characterized by a set of somatic, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, one of which is a high risk of suicide. This work presents a hypothesis that depression may be caused by the convergence of two factors: (A) A lifestyle that lacks certain physiological stressors that have been experienced by primates through millions of years of evolution, such as brief changes in body temperature (e.g. cold swim), and this lack of “thermal exercise” may cause inadequate functioning of the brain. (B) Genetic makeup that predisposes an individual to be affected by the above condition more seriously than other people. To test the hypothesis, an approach to treating depression is proposed that consists of adapted cold showers (20 degrees C, 2-3 min, preceded by a 5-min gradual adaptation to make the procedure less shocking) performed once or twice daily. The proposed duration of treatment is several weeks to several months. The following evidence appears to support the hypothesis: Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect. Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively. The therapy was also found to have a significant analgesic effect and it does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence. In conclusion, wider and more rigorous studies would be needed to test the validity of the hypothesis.
Is there anything exercise can’t help us overcome or prevent?
According to a preliminary study done at the Butler Hospital/Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, which examined the effects of aerobic exercise on obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD):
Study findings at the end of this 12-week aerobic exercise intervention point to a beneficial effect (Cohen’s d = 1.69) on reduction in OCD symptom severity. Further, reductions in OCD symptom severity appear to persist 6 months later. Lastly, improvement in overall sense of well-being was observed after the 12-week intervention. Results of this study suggest that a randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of this 12-week aerobic exercise intervention is warranted.
This is good news. We already knew exercise can be beneficial for people suffering from depression, so this isn’t all that surprising since there are some links between depression and OCD. In fact, scientists keep finding links between various mental conditions, which may explain their high rate of co-morbidity, as well the difficulty with diagnosing some very “mixed” cases.
As far as OCD is concerned, what if the OCD sufferer becomes obsessed with exercise? What then?
For me, the answer is definitely yes, but this isn’t evidence that it can help others deal with stress. Few things are like juggling 3 or 4 balls, and doing tricks to forget about certain stressful problems or to gain a different perspective on them. It puts me into a different brain zone where it seems problems are both smaller and more manageable. Indeed, effectively dealing with various responsibilities and stressful problems is not unlike a juggling act.
What does science have to say about this? We are very fortunate that some scientists did put the title question of this post to the test and did some good, though preliminary research: Effect of juggling therapy on anxiety disorders in female patients published in Biopsychosoc Med. 2007; 1: 10:
After 6 months, an analysis of variance revealed that scores on the state anxiety, trait anxiety subscales of STAI and tension-anxiety (T-A) score of POMS were significantly lower in the juggling group than in the non-juggling group (p < 0.01). Depression, anger-hostility scores of POMS were improved more than non-jugglers. In the juggling group, activity scores on the vigor subscale of POMS and FAI score were significantly higher than those in the non juggling group (p < 0.01). Other mood scores of POMS did not differ between the two groups.
These findings suggest that juggling therapy may be effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
This sounds promising, but this study did have many limitations. For one thing, it involved only 17 people, all of them female. Also, the effect from the juggling may be due to the juggling helping the test subjects relax; any other relaxation therapy may have achieved the same results. Similarly, juggling is a form of light exercise, which can also help relieve anxiety. Unlike yoga or meditation, juggling does increase gray matter in the brain, possibly in a manner that may make it more resistant to stress or depression, although this is speculation on my part. After all, a person whose brain is more “adaptive” is probably better able to adapt to stressful conditions. I think the control/non juggling group in this study should have done light aerobic exercise, to see how juggling compares to exercise in general.
There is also the issue of EMDR therapy that was covered in the study:
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been consistently evaluated as effective for treating several anxiety disorders, inclucing PTSD , panic disorders , and phobias . Although conflicting data has been reported for the efficacy of EMDR , this therapy is considered to be of low to moderate level of efficacy . Originally, research on this therapy found that moving the eyes rapidly in a side-to-side motion reduced disturbing thoughts and related anxiety .
So rapidly moving the eyes side-to-side, all by all by itself can help relieve anxiety? That is intriguing. I suggest reading the full study since there is a lot of interesting information in there. This research is promising, but a lot more needs to be done.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, joggling, Juggling
Tagged anxiety, anxiety disorders, depression, exercise to relieve stress, juggling balls, juggling to relieve stress, mental illness, overcoming stress, rapid eye movement, relieving stress, stress, stressful conditions, therapies for anxiety
I hope everyone is having a splendid winter so far. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to engage in outdoor or even indoor exercise this time of year due to the winter blues. Some people may even experience major depression caused by the shorter days, and may find it difficult to crawl out of their warm, cozy bed. If it is very cold outside, some folks won’t even venture outside.
In part, genetics may play a role. Indeed, slowing down and feeling depressed during the winter may be related to the hibernation response in other animals- Metabolic depression in hibernation and major depression: an explanatory theory and an animal model of depression.
This is fascinating research. It’s not necessarily easy to “prove” anything either way with this kind of speculation; even if it were “proven” that depression is related to hibernation, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to “hibernate” if you feel depressed, unless you are a bear. Understanding that there is a connection between the two could lead to a better understanding of depression and more effective ways to overcome it.
What we know already may already be helpful for some. In many animals, the hibernation response is turned on by light deprivation due to shorter winter days and/or lower temperatures. SAD(seasonal affective disorder) is a form of depression that tends to affect people more during the winter. Lack of light may play a role, and so logically, “light therapy” by using a light box in the morning may be beneficial for those affected – Seasonal affective disorder: an overview.
If you have eye problems though, using a light box may not be a good idea. It doesn’t work for everyone since the brain is very complex and we all have our own unique biochemistry. Some people are more sensitive to light than others. Whatever you do, keep on exercising, and try to expose yourself to extra light in the morning if you have SAD. If you think you have serious depression, seek professional help.
I must admit that I sometimes feel a little blue in the morning this time of year, but a quick juggle or some exercises and turning on all the lights seems to help me quickly overcome it. It is nothing serious luckily. I never drink coffee or caffeinated beverages, so I have to rely on intense exercise, and sometimes eating or drinking something very spicy to help wake up my system.
I don’t joggle early in the morning usually(though I often juggle a little), since I tend to drop the balls too much if I joggle soon after waking(the darkness doesn’t help) and I often don’t have the time anyway. I just do it later in the day. On the rare occasion I do a long, very early morning joggle(I mean around 5:30 AM to 7:00 AM), I notice I am slowly improving. Ideally, I’d like to do more joggling at this time of day, and so I continue to study various approaches to quickly overcoming early morning grogginess without caffeine. I’m open to any new suggestions.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, joggling, Juggling, New York, nutrition, running
Tagged animals, bears, brain, circadian rhythm, cold, darkness, depression, hibernation, light, light box, light therapy, melatonin, mood, mood disorders, New Rochelle, NY, Pelham, SAD, seasonal affective disorder, serotonin, sunlight, westchester county, winter, winter blues, winter cold