It’s not just a buzzword, light therapy has been giving mental health a boost for some time now and in the colder, darker months of winter, light becomes an important resource.
You may be asking…what is light therapy? Many people use a light therapy box, which mimics natural, outdoor lighting. That’s it! No gimmicks or surprises involved, and nothing hard to figure out how to use. Just a new source of light in your life.
So, who is light therapy good for?
The short answer is: probably most people. However, it is majorly beneficial for those who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is described as a form of depression that occurs around the same time each year. It tends to affect those who live in colder climates and those which experience less sunlight during specific times of the year.
Maybe you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder yourself, or you find yourself feeling a little melancholy and unmotivated in the darkness of winter. Here are 4 reasons you may be interested in using light therapy for yourself:
1. LIGHT LIFTS YOUR MOOD!
Consider a warm, sunny day with a bright blue sky. Just imagining it gives you a little boost, doesn’t it? Exposing yourself to light, especially when it gets dark outside at 4 PM (c’mon...really?!), is said to be beneficial with treating a depressed mood. There is a chemical change in our brains when we are exposed to light that helps in increasing those “feel-good” hormones.
2. INCREASED ENERGY
In addition to light therapy helping to lower a depressed mood and releasing those “feel-good” hormones, but it may also provide a much needed energy boost.
Again, think of a sunny day. When you wake up and the sun is shining, it can make it a lot easier to get out of bed to start your day. The light tells your brain that it is time to be alert, get to work, or get ready to have fun.
And sure, a cup of coffee also is a way to start the day to feel a spark of energy, but a more natural way is using those rays that shine upon you.
3. BETTER SLEEP
With it getting dark earlier, the cold winter months can make it easy to feel steadily foggy and sleepy throughout the day. Being inside most of the time can also add to this feeling. Oftentimes, because of this change, you may find yourself lying in bed at night, unable to drift off to dreamland. Why is this?
When you are not exposed to enough light throughout the day, it can throw off your circadian rhythm, or your internal clock.
If your brain doesn’t receive enough information differentiating between night and day, you may struggle falling asleep or getting restful sleep at night. Light therapy can help you get the light you need during the day so that once your usual bedtime rolls around, sleep will come more easily.
4. LITTLE TO NO SIDE EFFECTS
When talking about increased energy, a morning cup of coffee was mentioned. However, caffeine often leads to increased anxiety, shakiness, and a terrible mood crash as it wears off, along with many other things. With light therapy, side effects are few and far between.
UV light is filtered out so that it isn’t a concern for those using light therapy. There are no caffeine or sugar induced mood crashes. As opposed to side effects experienced with some medications, light therapy has very little chance of any physical reaction, allergic or otherwise. Eye strain, headache, and nausea have been reported, but sitting in indirect light rather than looking directly into it can play a role.
For those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (and no instance of Bipolar Disorder), and those who just feel a little off during the winter months, light therapy can be a safe and effective method to add to help out. Whether used on its own or in conjunction with talk therapy or medication, great improvements to mood, energy, and sleep can be made.
HAVE YOU USED LIGHT THERAPY BEFORE? WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE?