Posts Tagged ‘SAD’

‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly … Or SAD? Article for Ageless Living by Helen Foster-Grimmett

December 14, 2012

‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly … Or SAD?
By Helen Foster-Grimmett

Tonight, my husband told me that this article lacked pizzazz. I said: “Sorry, my serotonin is seasonally challenged – no sparkle.” I find myself standing in front of travel agency windows mesmerized by posters of sun-drenched Hawaii, Mexico, Barbados. Mauritius looks delicious.

By Christmas – the season to be jolly – some people have been feeling sad, down, or downright depressed since the onset of autumn. And they’ll motor on through to the first buds of spring feeling the same way. If you are one of those people, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about five million Canadians experience the “winter blues,” a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. At least two to three percent have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed as “SAD” – an apt acronym. People with SAD often feel a sense of happiness on a cloudy day when the sun peeks through the clouds, then deflated when the clouds cover the sky again. It’s as if the clouds are a manifestation of their minds. For people with SAD, those inner clouds can be dark, and they sometimes don’t lift until the spring flowers bloom and sunshine is more constant. The Canadian Mental Health Association tells us that women are more at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder than men: eight times as many women as men report having SAD. Although the reasons for this are not defined, one suggestion is that women may spend more time indoors with their children than men and, therefore, less time in sunlight.

Sunless and SAD
Experts are not sure what causes SAD, but they generally link it to lack of sunlight. SAD is rare in those living within 30 degrees of the equator, where daylight hours are consistently long and bright. It is more common in northern countries, including Canada, where bright winter sunlight is sparse. Lack of light may upset our cycles and other rhythms. It may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin, which affects mood. People with mild winter blues manage to cope throughout the season. However, those diagnosed with SAD could feel more severe symptoms, including:
• Depression, apathy, negative thoughts, loss of self-esteem
• Sleep problems
• Lethargy, fatigue
• Overeating or little appetite
• Difficulty with concentration and memory
• Withdrawn – finding it hard to be around people
• Anxiety
• Inability to deal with stress
If you are affected by any of these symptoms, take heart: there are remedies that work wonders for SAD.

Relief for SAD Symptoms
Millions of people with SAD have been helped by the work of Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a world-renowned psychiatrist. Rosenthal and his team at the National Institute of Mental Health pioneered research that first led to describing Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the use of light therapy to treat it.

According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association in the UK, “light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of diagnosed cases.” Light therapy is now routinely prescribed for SAD in northern countries, but at the time Rosenthal and his team first used it, the results were dramatic. In his New York Times best-selling book Transcendence, Dr. Rosenthal recalls a comment from one of his colleagues. He had noticed a remarkable change in a patient who had been having light therapy for SAD for just one week: “I don’t know what treatment she is receiving, but she’s blooming like a rose!” A vivid metaphor for our need for light from the life-giving sun.

Dr. Rosenthal’s other guide for readers who suffer from SAD is called Winter Blues. This book provides a self-test that readers can use to evaluate their own seasonal mood changes, presents remedies for SAD, research on the use of medication, and new recipes to counterbalance unhealthy winter food cravings. A cautionary caveat: if you or someone you know is seriously depressed, it is imperative to seek professional advice, as depression can be debilitating or even life-threatening.

The good news? The incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder decreases with age. So for all you seniors out there, as we approach the holiday season, ‘tis truly the season for you to be jolly!

Helen Foster-Grimmett writes on issues of health, education, and stress management. These days you may find her outside travel agency windows, looking wistful. Article references available upon request.

This is Helen’s 2nd article for the Canadian magazine, Ageless Living. You can read her first article there: The Answer To Cancer.

For more information on Dr. Norman Rosenthal, his work and books: Winter Blues, and Transcendence, visit: http://normanrosenthal.com.

Norman Rosenthal spoke in Chicago on Light and Transcendence—alternative modalities to reduce stress, optimize health

September 11, 2012

Norman Rosenthal, M.D., was in Chicago September 5-7 to deliver a series of talks at various medical, educational, and public venues. His main theme was using Light and Transcendence as alternative approaches to reduce stress and optimize health. Dr. Rosenthal addressed 200 people at the University of Chicago Gleacher Center Wednesday evening, spoke on Thursday with staff and students at Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola, and talked with health care and other professionals as a guest of the Chicago Lakeshore Hospital at a Friday luncheon.

Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal is the world-renowned psychiatrist and author whose research in describing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneering the use of light therapy has helped millions of people. The New York Times best-seller, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation, is out in paperback this month (September 2012), with a Foreword written by Mehmet C. Oz M.D., and a new concluding chapter, After Transcendence.

At the same time, Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat SAD, which the New York Times called “a landmark book,” is being released in its revised and updated fourth edition. It includes a chapter, Meditation for the Winter Blues.

Stressful times affect health and happiness

Economic challenges, the feeble job market and information overload, not to mention the drought, conspire to stretch people to the breaking point. Everyone is experiencing some degree of stress and anxiety in their lives. In fact, the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) estimates that 40 million adults, one in seven, have some type of anxiety disorder.

Dr. Rosenthal pointed out the current epidemic of stress has resulted in cardiovascular disease as well as psychiatric disorders. It effects everyone from war veterans to the general public. “Having witnessed the mental and spiritual anguish of many hundreds of people,” he said, “I find the potential clinical power of this technique (TM) amazing.”

Transcendental Meditation—a simple effective solution

A Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, Dr. Rosenthal was initially very skeptical about the effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation technique for beating stress and anxiety. After examining the research, however, he said, “I came to scoff and remained to pray,” paraphrasing a famous line from Irish writer, playwright, and physician Oliver Goldsmith‘s poem The Deserted Village.

Dr. Rosenthal at University of Chicago Gleacher Center explained three different categories of meditation and how they effect the brain producing different results

The former NIMH researcher explained three different categories of meditation and how they effect the brain. He said having the right instruction in meditation can make a world of difference in the results.

Dr. Rosenthal described research examining the Transcendental Meditation program resulting in hard evidence not seen with other meditation techniques. He cited improvements in cardiovascular health, reduced drug, alcohol and tobacco use, reduced PTS symptoms in veterans, and studies showing significant reductions in health care costs and utilization resulting from twice daily TM practice.

Mr. Ulrich Sandmeyer, co-owner with his wife Ellen, of Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, an independent Chicago bookseller, brought Dr. Rosenthal’s books to every event. He does this service for speakers 3-4 times a week and has done so for 20 years.  He said that Norman Rosenthal was the most compelling speaker he has ever encountered. Coming from Mr. Sandmeyer that says a lot!

Thanks to Carla Brown, Ed.D., co-director of the Transcendental Meditation Program in the Greater Chicago Area, for organizing these events for Dr. Rosenthal and for sending us some highlights of the tour.

Click on Transcendental Meditation Visualized [Infographic] to see this new post on Dr. Rosenthal’s blog. He says, “The infographic below is brought to you as a resource and extension of the book ‘Transcendence,’ which features some of the main points about Transcendental Meditation that I highlighted in the book.”

Related posts on this topic

Dr. Norman Rosenthal gives an engaging talk to medical staff at Northern Westchester Hospital

PsychCentral reviews Norman Rosenthal’s book Transcendence: Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Dr. Catherine Ulbricht interviews psychiatrist and author Dr. Norman Rosenthal for Natural Standard

A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress by David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal

Additional information on Norman Rosenthal, Transcendence and Winter Blues are listed below and available in his Press Kit.

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Dr. Norman Rosenthal gives an engaging talk to medical staff at Northern Westchester Hospital

February 22, 2012

Dr. Norman Rosenthal addresses medical staff at NWH

Dr. Norman Rosenthal recently gave a wonderfully engaging talk on the Transcendental Meditation technique to the medical staff of Northern Westchester Hospital as part of their Health Education program.

Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a world-renowned psychiatrist and author who described seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy to treat it has improved the health of millions of people. His latest book Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation (Tarcher-Penguin, 2011) explores the value of this ancient meditation technique for healing and transformation in today’s modern world.

Dr. Rosenthal began his talk by highlighting the key themes of healing and transformation brought about by TM, and explained how certain parts of the brain are effected by stress and improved by meditation. He humorously described the conflict that exists neurologically in a stressed mind between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala by using the simple analogy of the CEO of a company and the fire marshall. It made a lot of sense. Everyone got it.

Drawing on anecdotes from his best-selling book, Transcendence, Dr. Rosenthal’s relaxed narrative style held the audience’s attention throughout the presentation. He shared personal stories of how TM had improved the lives of those interviewed for the book, like Hollywood filmmaker David Lynch, actress Laura Dern, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Tim Page, neuropsychologist William Stixrud, as well as patients from his own practice.

A former NIH researcher, Dr. Rosenthal had looked into, and was impressed by, the volume of scientific research studies on TM in the fields of mental and physical health, education and social behavior. He cited some of these studies, including more recent ones.

Dr. Rosenthal also mentioned a published pilot study he had conducted on Veterans with PTSD that showed a 50% reduction in symptoms within two months. He posted an article about it on his blog, along with an emotionally-charged video of one of the Veterans and his mother:  The Case for Using Transcendental Meditation to Treat Combat Related PTSD.

He told the amazing story of Jim Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School, and how he had transformed violent, stressed under-achieving, low-attending students to motivated harmonious academically successful ones with the highest attendance ever, after he had introduced the TM/Quiet Time program to his staff and students. The program was implemented and funded by the David Lynch Foundation. Here is a recent article, with a video of principal Dierke, posted on the TM Blog: Breaking the “predictive power of demographics”: SF principal talks about how TM helps his students.

Dr. Rosenthal also shared his own story of how he started TM as a college student in South Africa back in the 70’s. “As they say, if you remember the 70’s you probably weren’t there, but I was there,” he quipped, and giggled. Like most of us he was inspired by the Beatles traveling to India to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But, he says, he was overwhelmed with his medical studies and didn’t take the time to meditate regularly. He dropped the meditation, yet returned to it decades later after one of his patients recommended he do it based on his own experiences. He went to the local TM center to refresh his practice. After looking into some of the research studies, and noticing subtle yet lasting changes in his own life, he was convinced that this simple, natural process could really make a difference in people’s lives.

Dr. Rosenthal swore he would never write another book; it takes too much time and energy, but after seeing how much of a difference TM was making in his life, and in the lives of his patients, he just had to write this one last book. He felt as compelled to write about TM as he had been about his earlier medical discovery. He was also pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable the whole process went, compared to earlier experiences. He felt the joy of being in the flow, of being in the moment, totally engaged in the creative process. He said the whole experience was very rewarding, uplifting and fulfilling.

He concluded his talk with the value of groups, organizations, practicing TM together, and the impact that has. As an example he mentioned Oprah and how she chose to give TM to her whole organization, and the amazing transformations that brought about. She wrote about it in her magazine, What I Know for Sure.

You can enjoy watching Dr. Rosenthal’s entertaining and informative presentation here on the Northern Westchester Hospital website: http://www.nwhc.net/home/about-us/video-suite/health-education.

Credit and appreciation goes to Sally Rosenfeld, a Certified Teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program, in Westchester County, NY, for arranging to have Dr. Rosenthal speak at Northern Westchester Hospital. Sally said it was a great event, with around 100 people attending from both the hospital and community. Several of them later came to the TM Center to learn how to meditate. Considering how progressive NWH is with their alternative offerings, adding the TM program to the mix would seem like a natural outcome of the meeting.

PsychCentral reviews Norman Rosenthal’s book Transcendence: Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

September 16, 2011

Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

By Therese Borchard

Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?Being that my job is to feature and review books on psychology, spirituality, and especially the intersection between the two, I receive my share of books on meditation. And as a person who has been trying to meditate for two years, but who just can’t seem to get the hang of it, I always open the cover a tad sinister, looking for a magic bullet.

The book Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation was on my decline stack until I read the short bio on Norman Rosenthal, M.D. and became intrigued. He’s a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School. He conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health. And he was the one who first described and diagnosed seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Ironically, I knew of him through my good friend Michelle, who had been one of the case studies for him on SAD.

So, with those credentials I opened the book and began to read stories that inspired me and gave me hope that one day I might be a meditator too.

Rosenthal won my trust in that he clearly states in the introduction that Transcendental Meditation is not a stand-alone treatment for emotional disorders, especially when effective treatments are available and work (if not full proof). He writes, “The fact is that no single treatment works every time for any given set of symptoms. We often have to try several different medications or treatment approaches before we find the right mix. I am suggesting that TM should be part of that mix, especially when conventional approaches prove unsatisfactory.” Rosenthal would in no way advise a person to go off his meds and try this type of meditation. However, he believes that practicing it can be the difference between a life of coping and a life of living.

Before reading Rosenthal’s book, I was unaware of the ways different kinds of meditations activate neurons in distinct regions of the brain. For example, Mindful Meditation increases the activity of neurons not only in certain emotional areas of the brain, but also in frontal regions, which are responsible for decision making and other functions. In Transcendental Meditation, there is a more global effect. Characteristic brain wave patterns are seen in many different parts of the brain, so the meditator has a better chance of experiencing the effects of meditation long past the meditation session.

What, exactly, is this Transcendental Meditation? Rosenthal writes:

Transcendental Meditation is always taught one-on-one, at least initially, by a teacher who is a longtime meditator trained not only to instruct new students and provide follow-up, but also to customize the approach for each student. Initial instruction has seven steps: two lectures and a personal interview with a certified teacher, then four teaching sessions on four consecutive days. Each session lasts about ninety minutes. Ideally, the fledgling meditator then follows up with the teacher, perhaps weekly for the first month and monthly thereafter. These thirty-minute “checking” sessions give students a chance to ask questions and make sure their technique is still on track, so they will derive the maximum benefit.

Basically, TM is a nonreligious practice that involves sitting comfortably for twenty minutes twice a day, while using a silent mantra, or nonverbal sound, to attain a profound state of aware relaxation. And just like yoga or martial arts, says Rosenthal, in order to learn it correctly, you need ongoing guidance with a teacher.

A profound gift of TM is that regular practice increases brain wave coherence, meaning that the frequencies of brain waves in different parts of the brain work together as a result of TM. In seasoned meditators, brain wave coherence can be found throughout the day, not only during meditation. Electroencephalograms (EEG) indicate that TM calms the brain while organizing the prefrontal brain regions so that meditators can improve their focus, decision-making, and job performance.

Especially enlightening to me were Rosenthal’s chapters on how TM can help treat acute anxiety, major depression, and bipolar disorder. This psychiatrist and some of his colleagues obtained a grant to study TM in a group of bipolar patients. In the study, eleven people received immediate TM training, while fourteen people were placed on a wait list. Both groups continued with their previous medical treatments. A few from the TM group reported a drop in manic symptoms, however, depressive symptoms were especially relieved, as stated in the patient reports but also upon inspecting the results of TM by Rosenthal and his team. Explains Rosenthal:

Several patients reported increased calmness, improved focus, and improved ability to stay organized and set priorities–no surprise, given TM’s known effects on the prefrontal cortex. TM helped bipolar patients improve their executive function, just as it did for people with anxiety disorders and ADHD… All in all … our study study suggests that TM might be very helpful for bipolar patients. In fact, all the clinicians who worked on the study are now referring certain of their bipolar patients, particularly those with residual depression, for TM training–along with their other treatments.

Check out Rosenthal’s book, Transcendence, for more information on the science and benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

Therese J. Borchard is Associate Editor at Psych Central, where she regularly contributes to World of Psychology. She also writes the daily blog, Beyond Blue, on

Beliefnet.com. Therese is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist. Subscribe to her RSS feed on Psych Central or Beliefnet. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter @thereseborchard.

APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2011). Transcendental Meditation: What Is It and How Does It Work?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 14, 2011, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/transcendental-meditation-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work/

Scientifically Reviewed
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jul 2011
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

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Also listen to an excellent interview with Norman Rosenthal and Jenny Crwys-Williams on South Africa’s 702 Talk Radio. Click to download Podcast. It’s mentioned in this post: Meditation for Health, Happiness and Spirituality.

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