3 Easy Ways to Combat Winter Depression with Light Therapy

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I claim to be one. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, are injured, or are feeling thoughts of depression, anxiety, or anything else, please contact a medical professional IMMEDIATELY!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

If you are dreading the winter because you know that you will get the winter blues, brighten up! This could be the best winter ever. Light therapy is a safe, effective way to combat winter depression. All you may need to do to be your normal, happy self is spend some time outside every day. Switching to full spectrum lights in your house and office can also help improve your mood and increase productivity. If more serious steps are required, bright light therapy can often help relieve winter depression in as little as 30 minutes a day.

1. Get out in the sunshine every day.
The easiest way to apply light therapy is to create a daily routine that involves spending time outside on sunny days. Taking a walk, going snowshoeing, or just sitting in front of a window with a sunny southern exposure is often enough to relieve winter depression. The key is to be consistent and make time for sunlight every day. In some northern areas, the days are too short and the sunlight does not have enough intensity for this simple method to be beneficial. On the same note, winter weather often has a few days of sunshine with long stretches of gray clouds, and rain or snow.

2. Change your home and office lights to bright, full spectrum lighting.
A second method of using light therapy to help alleviate mild winter depression is to change all of your indoor lights to brighter intensity, full spectrum lighting. Within the past year several light bulb manufacturers,such as GE, Westinghouse, and others, have begun selling full spectrum compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). For best results, You should look for full spectrum lights that are at least 100W equivalent and have a color temperature rating greater than 5000K.

3. Use a light box 30 minutes every morning
The most commonly used method for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is through bright light therapy using a light box. Winter blues are often a mild, sub clinical form of SAD. Bright light therapy involves sitting in front of a specially designed, intense light (such as the Apollohealth goLite) for a set amount of time (30 minutes-2 hours depending on your needs). This therapy seems to be most effective if done early in the morning, and you must have your eyes open (but not looking at the light) in order for the therapy to work. Bright light therapy mimics the light intensity of a summer afternoon and naturally causes changes in body chemistry. These changes help combat winter depression.

On rare occasions, there are some side effects that accompany using bright light therapy. These side effects include insomnia, agitation or anxiety, eye strain, and headache. Side effects are usually a sign that you should reduce the amount of time you spend in front of the light box.

When to seek medical treatment:
If winter depression is interfering with your life, you have feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or clinical depression and should seek medical advice. Even with a mild case of winter blues, you should talk to your doctor before starting bright light therapy.

Light therapy has been shown to be a safe, effective treatment to battle winter depression and improve moods. With a few simple steps such as getting outside, changing to full spectrum lighting, and/or using a light therapy box, you could defeat the winter blues and keep your sunny personality all year round.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I claim to be one. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, are injured, or are feeling thoughts of depression, anxiety, or anything else, please contact a medical professional IMMEDIATELY!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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