The experience of the season of Spring seems to reflect Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote above – and, no wonder, Spring might be the most eagerly awaited change of seasons of the year for many of us!
At the same time, did you know that it is also the time of year when suicides peak?
Researchers are beginning to uncover why this world-wide trend might exist. Adam Kaplin, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, suggests that there is overwhelming evidence that links inflammation to depression and suicide. One of the sources of inflammation is seasonal allergic reactions, with chances of depression being 42% higher for people with rhinitis. So, although Spring may, at first glance, seem full of rebirth and like a welcomed time of transition, it too comes with the reminder that all transitions come with challenges.
So, although you might not be currently experiencing depression (or suicidal thoughts), becoming aware of the impact that inflammation has on the body and mind can help to support you through this seasonal change, as well as other times of significant change, such as navigating the stress of moving or from the loss of a job.
Please consider the following intention-setting ideas to support your immune system, especially when navigating transitional times which tend to increase the experience of inflammation in the mind and body:
- Nasal cleansing. Consider investing in a Neti pot and trying a daily practice of washing out the irritants from your nasal passages. Using a sterile water and salt mixture has been shown to reduce sinus inflammation and the symptoms of an itchy nose, sneezing, sinus headaches and the long dreaded sinus infections. This practice can also be used to prevent and treat symptoms of colds and the accompanying inflammation, since it takes 8-12 hours for a cold virus to replicate within your nose. If you are hesitant to try out this practice (and who wouldn’t be a little scared to fill your nose with water as we are humans for goodness sake and not fish!), check out some of the videos on YouTube to get tips on how to overcome the fear. My suggestion would be to start a practice now before the pollen levels grow even more!
- Legs-Up-The-Wall. Known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, this restorative yoga shape supports and strengthens your immune system, among many other benefits. It can be done anywhere, including the back of any door in your home or office. The longer you hold it, the greater the reduction in stress (AKA inflammation), in both the mind and body. Perhaps holding this shape for 10 minutes each day for a week and sense into the difference it might make in your energy levels, clarity of thoughts, and quality of sleep.
- Alter what you eat. There is much written about the impacts of the types of fuel you add to your body, so it is not my intention to promote any specific “diet” out there. I’m offering the suggestion to consider adding one or perhaps two new “premium” sources of energy to your existing routine. For example, adding foods that are rich in antioxidants, known as polyphenols, has been shown to reduce inflammation. These foods include onions and red grapes, the spice turmeric, and green tea. Consider simply adding one of these each day for one month. Another example is adding more omega-3 fatty acids, which includes olive oil, ghee, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel into your meals. Now you can’t convince me to eat sardines, but I have switched over to ghee, so perhaps you might too!
- Immerse yourself in a Sound Bath. What is a sound bath you might ask? Well, it is an experience where you listen to sounds that are soothing to the nervous system. Music has been shown to ‘speak’ to the body’s autonomic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that controls the unconscious functions of our bodies, such as our heart beat, and reduce the level of cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone). It has also been shown to improve the body’s immune system functioning, have a positive effect on the brain, and enhance cognition. Perhaps take a moment now and do a search in your area for the next Sound Bath event at a local yoga studio, health spa, or holistic practitioner’s office space and schedule it in your calendar. If you are sensitive to sounds, consider trying a one-instrument sound bath, such as Crystal Singing Bowls or Gongs first.
- Practice meditation. Both meditation and self-compassion practices have been shown to reduce stress-induced inflammation. Consider finding an online self-compassion meditation that resonates with you and implement a daily practice, perhaps each night before going to bed. If you would like to read a little bit more about how meditation reduces inflammation, check out this article from HuffPost.
As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share!