Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Posted by

How do you get the light you need when the days are short, cold and grey? Read on to find out how to use happy lights for seasonal affective disorder.

Do you ever feel energy flowing out of you in the winter? Maybe your body starts to feel heavy and needs to be recharged. Your first instinct is to spend as much time in the sun as possible. But, depending on where you live, it might be bitter cold outside. That’s when you need a happy light.

Happy Light

The light box or “happy” light is a treatment for seasonal affective disorder. The very first time I sat in front of a happy light, I felt a strong sense of joy and energy. Not everyone who uses a light box has an immediate response to it, but studies show that consistent, daily exposure from fall until spring is effective for many people who struggle to keep their mood and energy up throughout the long winter season. 

Here’s some basic info on light therapy:

  • Therapeutic light boxes have an intensity of 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Many people recommend 10,000 lux light box to treat seasonal depression. To put this in perspective, the average home light is between 300 – 500 lux and the light coming from a summer sky can be over 100,000 lux.
  • Light boxes are recommended for daily use from September – April to treat seasonal affective disorder. Typical treatment consists of sitting in front of a lightbox for 15-30 minutes per day, early in the morning. 
  • People start to experience an improvement in mood within two-four days of using a light box and start to feel their normal selves in two weeks. 
  • Symptoms may return if light therapy is prematurely stopped
  • While generally well tolerated, some people experience side effects of light therapy, including headaches, eye strain, anxiety and fatigue. Most side effects can be managed by decreasing the amount of time spent using the light box.
  • 60 to 80% of people who have seasonal affective disorder see improvements in their mood with lightbox treatment.

If you think a happy light could be helpful, find out more about it and talk with your primary health care professional. Or, start browsing therapy lights. It could be just the thing to brighten your winter days! 

Other light sources to help seasonal affective disorder

Since you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it’s tough for you to wake up before the sun comes up. It can definitely be a struggle for me. A typical clock that blasts music or an alarm can be a rude awakening! Fortunately, there’s a brighter (and quieter) option – a dawn simulator.

Like the happy light, I was amazed by the dawn simulator the first time I saw one, and very happy with it the first time I used my own. With my light sensitivity the dawn simulator works pretty quickly to wake me up. It starts with a dim light which gradually gets brighter, helping me wake up in a more natural way. Many dawn simulator clocks also come with a dusk setting to help you go to sleep. It’s nice to be woken up in such a gentle way by the light!

In addition to using a happy light and dawn simulator, it can be beneficial to surround yourself with lights of all kinds. If you have a fireplace in your house, use it! How about a string of white lights in a cozy corner of a room, around a deck, or on a tree – yes!

The Danish use candles as an essential part of hygge – the feeling of coziness and contentment that they cultivate through the winter. Filling your house with candles brings light, warmth, and scents that can brighten your day.

Here’s to warm fireplaces, candles, strings of lights, and pretty lamps to make you smile and bring some cheer during the dark winter days.  

Supplement a happy light with the right nutrition and therapy.

Leave a Reply