outside sunflowersThough spring is almost here (one can hope), many people are still suffering from something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s something that happens to people who are sensitive to the sun’s rays, or the lack thereof in winter months. But there is an easy treatment for SAD, and it’s known as light therapy.

Seasonal affective disorder is a condition that can cause depression, moodiness, and a general feeling of lethargy. As the sun is further away from the earth in the winter, we don’t get enough of it. This lack of light, along with insufficient vitamin D levels, is believed to be the culprit in the winter blues.

Light therapy seeks to remedy this lack of sunlight by providing artificial light. Research has shown light therapy to be very effective in the treatment of SAD – as effective as prescription drugs and without all the side effects.

Light Therapy

Light boxes are the treatment provider in light therapy. These boxes come from a variety of manufacturers and at a variety of price points. The box contains fluorescent bulbs that emit a bright light. The user sits in front of the box for an average of 20 to 40 minutes each day to get their dose of light “medicine”.

People who use the light boxes will often read or eat their breakfast in front of the device. They are told to start within a foot or two of the box and to focus on the areas that the box lights up, rather than looking at the lights themselves.

Morning light therapy is the best, as it’s this time of day when you need the most help pulling yourself out of your dreary-winter-day funk.

“I still say to myself, ‘It’s a dark crummy day,’ when the clouds roll in,” says one light therapy user. “The difference is, I don’t feel like going back to bed.”

One recent study found that depressed patients exposed to one hour of bright light therapy each day reduced their depression scores by up to 130% compared with those in a control group.

Still, not many general practitioners are suggesting light therapy to their patients. Why? Some say it’s because people want an instant fix—they don’t want to have to sit in a single spot for nearly an hour every morning. Instead, they dole out prescription medications.

Of course you can perform your own light therapy simply by spending more time outdoors.

Note: It’s important to know that fluorescent lights do come with some health risks. These energy efficient bulbs contain mercury and have been shown to ‘fry your skin’.  Although you shouldn’t stress too much about it, as you may be sitting under these lights daily at your work place, still be aware of these risks before exposing yourself more to these CFL bulbs.

Additional Sources:

GreenMedInfo

Columbia.edu


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