Winter is great for many reasons, such as the fresh snowfall, the holiday season and spending time with loved ones. However, winter can also be dreary, cold and usually has less sunlight. This can then cause something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a form of depression that generally occurs during a certain time of year, also referred to as the winter blues or seasonal depression. If you live in a colder climate, winter is pretty much unavoidable. If you think you might be experiencing SAD, some of the symptoms might include:
- Daytime fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain
- Feelings of hopelessness
These are just a few of the symptoms that can be associated with SAD and are quite similar to other depressive disorders. So, what can you do to avoid or decrease the possibility of experiencing the winter blues? One popular method to help alleviate symptoms caused by seasonal depression is called heliotherapy, otherwise known as Light Therapy.
Light therapy is used to make up for the lack of sunlight exposure that is thought to be linked to seasonal depression patterns. The idea is to sit in front of a light therapy lamp or box for a specific amount of time, which helps mimic sunlight that would normally be present during other months. The exposure provided by the light therapy lamp/box is thought to increase the chemical in the brain called serotonin, or the “happy hormone”, which plays an important role in mood, emotions and the overall functioning of our mind and body.
While a light therapy lamp is used and thought to be effective by many people, there are some things to remember before purchasing one or when using:
- Don’t look directly at the lamp while using. Since light therapy lamps were invented to mimic natural sunlight, it can be harmful and cause damage to your eyes, especially if you look at the lamp for long periods of time.
- Pay attention to what kind of lamp. In order to receive the full benefits of the light therapy lamp, you can’t just use any ordinary lamp. Make sure to find ones that are made for light therapy or “phototherapy” and emit at least 10,000 lux (which is the recommended amount for effective light therapy).
- Be consistent. For the light lamp/box to work, consistency is key. To reap the benefits, you should use it daily and for the same amount of time each day. If you only use it a couple of times a week or per month, you won’t see the same benefits as you would if you use it daily.
The benefits of the lamp will probably not happen overnight, so it is a good idea to be consistent and give it time. If you find that the light therapy lamp isn’t working well for you, even after consistent use, it might be a good idea to pair it with other methods, such as mindfulness exercises or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You should also confer with a mental health professional for further recommendations if you find yourself struggling with SAD. That being said, light therapy can be quite beneficial, if used correctly and consistently, so go ahead and try it out!
Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper
Mollie Clupper is working for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.