Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that comes and goes like the seasons, literally. You’ve probably heard the term winter blues. Well SAD is just that. It generally occurs during the long winter months and becomes more prevalent in the population the farther north you go. Four percent of the overall US population suffers, ranging from only one percent of Floridians and many as ten percent of us up here in Alaska. Just like regular depression, it can affect your outlook on life, your relationship with others, and relationship with your self. So should it be treated like regular depression with psychotherapy and antidepressants? No so fast.
Rather than filling our bodies with synthetic drugs created in a lab to make us feel better, light therapy is the more natural approach to treating SAD. There are some pretty simple yet effective gadgets available called light boxes. A light box is a medical device that can be prescribed by your doctor and even covered by your insurance. As an Alaskan, I have no shame in admitting I suffer from the winter blues and requested a prescription by my doctor for one. After my insurance, I paid around $30 for this $300 device. However, don’t worry if you don’t have insurance or money to go to the doctor; there are various brands and features available on Amazon.com for less than $100 with superb ratings.
You’ll want a light box with at least 10,000 lux, or level of illumination. Also, you’ll want to designate a specific time of the day you can sit in front of the light for 30 minutes. There is no need to stare directly at it, but being within a few feet is important. Whether you should use it in the mornings or evenings is arguable among doctors. However, I used to hook it up in the bathroom every morning while I got ready for school and in the evening while I did my homework at the table.
Does it work? I can certainly vouch for its effectiveness. After about a month and a half of use, I began to notice a change in my mood (and so did my family!) for the better. In fact, it worked so well I have recently dug it back out to use again this winter. I feel much better knowing there is a quick fix other than using frequently over-prescribed medications in treating SAD.