Does your mood darken as daylight becomes sparse over the long winter months? There is light at the end of your winter blues tunnel, and you don’t have to wait for spring to see it!
Most people only go through a few slumps in the winter, and this has no impact on their quality of life or daily activities. Others, however, experience more severe symptoms: loss of interest in their usual activities, an ongoing feeling of depression, loss of energy, problems sleeping, and even dark or suicidal thoughts. In these cases, the problem may be seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes back every year at the same time. These individuals should see their physician to determine whether a treatment could help them.
A simple, drug-free way to relieve SAD (or even a slight bout of winter blues) is to expose yourself to as much light as possible. Studies have found that exposure to light has a positive impact on symptoms of SAD.
Here are some tips to increase your exposure to light:
- Do some outdoor activities while the sun is out.
- Brighten your indoor environment by keeping curtains and blinds open. If possible, sit near a window to work.
- Exercise regularly.
You can also purchase a light therapy lamp to increase your exposure to light. It’s important to use them correctly, because even though they just emit light, they can cause more harm than benefits if they are used incorrectly.
It is recommended that you choose a light that provides at least 2,000 lux, and ideally 10,000 lux. Begin the exposure gradually: start with one or two minutes, and increase very gradually. Too much exposure can cause agitation and even increase anxiety rather than relieve it. The duration of exposure should be tailored to the intensity of the symptoms. It’s important to use the lamp in the morning, so that you don’t disrupt your sleep at night.
Light therapy is not suitable for everyone! Individuals with eye diseases, diabetes (due to the effects of the disease on the eyes), bipolar disorder, as well as people taking medication that makes their skin more sensitive to the sun, should not use these lamps, unless instructed otherwise by their doctor.
If you’re not sure whether light therapy is suitable for you, or if you need help choosing a lamp, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist!