Dark days, feeling depressed? Drumming helps.

Winter blues

In the summer everything is fine, but as soon as the leave falling off the trees your body begins to abandon you. Sometime little by little, sometime with a big bang. Feeling tired without specific reason, low in energy, sadness, an enormous desire to sleep all day long, gaining weight caused by increased need for high-calorie foods are some typical symptoms of winter depression or winter blues.

In Scandinavia, where a large part of the year it is very dark, depression throughout a shortage of light is pretty much widespread (it´s called SAD syndrome: seasonal affective disorder). But modern men also live generally a very dark life: dark office buildings and homes, no open-air markets but shopping malls, transportation in cars, (underground) buses, train compartments, planes.

Darkness root cause

The causes of SAD are not fully known. It was determined that the amount of daylight has an impact on the ‘mirror melatonin’. Melatonin is a hormone that’s being created in the evening and makes you sleepy. Melatonin thus ensures a healthy circadian rhythm (biological clock). In the winter, when there is little light, the melatonin concentration can be high during the day. As a result, people with winter depression during the day very tired.

Typical symptoms winter depression :
A shift of the circadian rhythm, which makes one feel ‘awake’ later on the day.
Extreme fatigue
Much need for sleep, even if one sleeps more than usual
Disturbed eating pattern (generally want to eat more fat and carbohydrate. Eating less is more a characteristic of a non-seasonal depression)
Gloomy, more than normally present
Feeling imbalanced and out of grip
Less need for (gaining) social contacts, sometimes even cutting off completely from the outside world
Bad tempered, tetchy
Higgledy-piggledy, distracted
Apathetical, heavy-headed

Treatment, What kind of things can you do?

Light therapy
In addition to oxygen, water and food, our bodies need a certain amount of light. This light we have to take in through our eyes (it is a different issue than the production of vitamin D in the skin by exposure to sunlight). Your doctor recommends often initially light therapy lamps. Light therapy works best when you sit half an hour in the morning in front of the lamp. Through your eyes a ‘daylight’ signal is transmitted to your brains and your melatonine level lowers. This makes your biorhythm is restored and you feel less tired and gloomy. You get back a normal circadian rhythm. Apart from this, it is of course to be recommended to go outside every day though. Nothing beats real oxygen en natural light.

Melatonine
Sometime the doctor describes melatonine tablets that make you fall faster asleep.

Antidepressants
There are, of course, substances such as the St-John’s wort but also chemicals that affect fabrics in your brain that affect our mood (neurotransmitters).

Dancing en drumming
Although really depressed people prefer to stay in bed all day with the curtains close, they would feel much better if they would stimulate the blood and oxygen circulation through targeted exercise every day. That encourages, among other things, certain neurotransmitters that influence your mood and state of well-being.

Exercises amongst other people in combination with acoustic instruments such as drums, xylophone, bongo´ s is even better against depression. There are recent scientific papers that conclude so and give you a state of the art overview on the relation between brain, body and music (Stewart et al (2006)).

The explanation may be that music through the amygdala will activate the ventral tegmental center. This center makes dopamine. As this substance enters the pleasure center (nucleus accumbens), pleasant feelings arise.

And as it happens to be, those are the ingredients of our sessions at Drum Cafe: fun, humor, movement and music. Altogether, integrated.

Perhaps it is also due to the African roots of Drum Cafe. Africa where the sunlight is always shining and SAD is not present.

We´re not certain but we know this for sure. Don´t walk around depressed any longer but do yourself a big favor and come dancing and drumming and walk away with a big smile that will last at least a week :-).

Have a wonderful day, Patrick Tromp CEO Drum Cafe Benelux