SAD Lamps, Winter Blues and Happiness

In the UK the nights and the mornings are now dark – or simply put – winter is hear.

I love winter.

I love the cold, crisp, winter walks and the loving warm house to return to.

But I don’t love how Winter makes me feel day to day.

The sunshine and daylight of summer make me feel good, alert and happy. I lose that edge in the winter. I feel low and sluggish. Or at least I used to.

I’m not alone either. Lots of people struggle to get up and get energised when the mornings are dark and the daylight hours are short. For some of us, we don’t just feel lethargic, we can feel downright miserable and depressed.

Many workplaces often don’t discuss health and wellbeing, but it’s a crucial aspect of our work – expect more posts on the topic of wellbeing and health in 2016.

SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder is incredibly common, yet mostly goes undiagnosed or simply put down to “feeling a little low”.

There’s a lot of science behind it, yet scientists still don’t know for sure what causes it.

From Wikipedia:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summertime sadness, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer

I’m not even certain I have SAD either, the doctors seem unable to diagnose it clearly, but what I do know is that when I get sunshine in the mornings, straight after waking up, I feel amazing for the whole day.

Enter the SAD Lamps

That’s why I invested in a couple of SAD lamps last year.

A SAD lamp is an electric light that mimics outdoor light, so when it’s dark outside I can get a blast of light and get the feelings that natural light tends to have on me.

The lights have made a huge difference.

From Mayo Clinic

A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.

I’ve got a nice little routine going now where I get up earlier than my sons, have a Bullet Proof coffee, stick on my SAD lamp and write.

I use the lamp for about 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, and I feel great.

I know when I’ve not used the lamp. I feel moody and lack motivation.

So whether I actually have SAD or not I know the lamps are making me feel good.

Unscientific

For the last year I’ve kept notes on how I’ve felt with and without using the lamp and the data shows, anecdotally, that the lamp is a massive help for me.

However, I know someone who was “feeling low” and who bought a lamp and it made no difference to them – maybe their underlying reason is not SAD.

As so clearly stated in an article on Harvard educational blog it’s important to realise that SAD lamps don’t help everyone and you should check with your doctor first.

Although light therapy is at least as effective as antidepressant medications for treating seasonal affective disorder, it doesn’t work or isn’t appropriate for everyone. Some people need more light, or brighter light. Others can’t tolerate bright light—in people with bipolar disorder, for example, it can trigger hypomania or mania. And even though the risk of eye damage from bright light is low, anyone with diabetes (which can damage the retina) or pre-existing eye disease should check with a doctor before trying light therapy.

Why 2 lights?

I mentioned I use two lights.

I have a full powered light for the mornings which gives me a massive hit of light, but I also have a smaller one which I use on my desk during the morning, or I take with me when I travel. The portability of the LAMP is important as when I travel I tend not to check bags in.

With the smaller light I need to use it for longer but that’s a trade off for portability.

Litepod SAD Lamp
Litepod SAD Lamp

My main lamp is a LitePod lifebox lamp*. It’s quite expensive at around £115 but it delivers a lot of light in one sitting.

My smaller second lamp is a LitePod LifeMax lamp* which requires a little more time in front of, but the portability is very useful as I travel a lot.

Smaller LightPod Lamp
Smaller LightPod Lamp

Conclusion

For those of us who are affected by SAD a lamp can offer huge benefits but of course, they may not help everyone. The lamp has also helped me to build a routine around it which allows me to blast out a blog post each morning whilst also getting a blast of light to boost my mood.

Please check with your doctor before starting to use a SAD lamp.


Resources

http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-overcome-the-winter-blues.html

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/seasonal-affective-disorder-bring-on-the-light-201212215663

http://www.sadlamps.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/when-summer-is-depressing/375327/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703300504574567881192085174


* I have used affiliate links in this post – you can read more about my affiliate policy here.