Light Therapy for Depression

Light Therapy for Depression Therapy in Boston Do you ever notice that on a sunny day it is easier to jump out of bed and start your day?  Are you in a better mood on sunny mornings?  As I have gotten older, I realize that I am very sensitive to light, meaning I need sunlight to improve my mood and energy.  I first realized this when I lived in Juneau, Alaska for a volunteer year after college.  The challenge with Juneau is that it is also in a Rainforest, so there are many rainy, cloudy days.

I could feel myself start to slip in the fall.  It was dark fast.  I wanted to nap every day.  When winter came it was even worse.  The sun would come up around 9 am and set around 3pm. And on a day where it was rainy and cloudy, well that was a struggle to get out of bed.  I remember waking up and thinking it has to be the middle of the night, but it would be 6 am.

But summer was a completely different story.  It was light all the time.  We could play softball at midnight.  The middle of the night never got dark, it was a state of twilight.  I felt my energy surge.  I didn’t need as much sleep.  I felt like I had come out of hibernation.

While Boston isn’t as far north as Juneau, I have become attuned to the adding and subtracting of light and notice it’s impact on my mood and energy.  For the past two years I have been using a light box and it has been life changing.  I have my coffee in front of it for 20-30 minutes while I read.  It has improved my mood and energy.  Today was a gloomy cloudy day and the lightbox helped me wake up and get started on writing this blog.

Many of us don’t get enough natural sunlight.  As we work longer hours, commute farther, work through lunch, we don’t get breaks to absorb natural light.  This can affect our brain chemistry.  Light can stimulate hormones and neurotransmitters.  Bright light early in the day can stimulate the body to produce more serotonin (helps with mood) and can regulate melatonin (a hormone that helps with regulating your sleep cycle).

So if you find yourself feeling sluggish, low energy, irritable in the mornings I invite you to try an experiment.

  • Make a commitment to spend 20 minutes in the sun each day. That can be having your coffee on the porch.  Taking your dog for a walk and every they stop to sniff, feel the sunlight on your skin.
  • Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Take it outside.  Or plan coffee or lunch breaks where you walk outside to get your food or energy.
  • Have a one-on-one meeting? Think about having it outside or take a walk while you are talking.
  • Consider purchasing a light box. You will need one with 10,000 lux to simulate the natural sunlight.  As an added bonus you won’t have to worry about UV rays.  I have found the Verilux Happy Lights easy to use.

Try any or all of the above and notice your mood, energy and sleep. It can take a few days to a week to feel the impact. Summer is a perfect time to build a habit.  Enjoy your sunny mood!