Over the last few years I’ve discovered that I hate winter. I just hate it. I struggle through the season every year. The worst period in my life was when I went through multiple fall/winter seasons due to moving back and forth between continents.
While I’m not one to self-diagnose, I’ve often wondered if I have SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, or simply just don’t do well during the winter (lower energy, oversleeping, etc.). While I’ve been diagnosed with PMDD, I’ve noticed that I struggle the most during the winter months when the light is low and the weather is cold. I’ve recently been struggling and while it most definitely could be situational, I’ve considered that it might also be due to the time of year.
It’s come up with my doctor and we will be discussing all this at my regular appointment later this month but I decided to try some things first to see if my mood and these other symptoms improved. It was one of those situations where the phrase “it couldn’t hurt” came into play.
Light Therapy Boxes
Since seasonal mood variations are believed to be related to light, light therapy boxes are one way many people treat the change. The changes in sunlight in winter and more cloud cover can delay your circadian rhythm and contribute to negative effects of SAD. It’s believed by some that bright light treatment corrects those delays and helps improve patient’s feelings and sleep habits.
Light therapy boxes, also known as bright light therapy boxes or phototherapy boxes, are designed to mimic outdoor light that causes a chemical change in the brain to light your mood and relieve other SAD symptoms. Light therapy can be as good as a standard antidepressant in some cases or super effective when combined with multiple treatment methods.
I’ve considered getting a light therapy box before in previous winter blues sessions but never pulled the trigger until now. I knew that now was the time to try it because I don’t want to spend my entire life going through ups and downs each season. I’d rather just be happy and energetic year round, wouldn’t you?
When I started researching light therapy boxes I got overwhelmed by the sheer amount that were available and the research that exists to support or refute their claims. I read reviews on some of the best-selling light therapy boxes but then couldn’t decide what I needed or whether it was worth it. I waited a few days and went back for another round of research based on features like light intensity, safety, cost, style, and size. Because of the price I wanted to make sure I got the best option that would help with my situation. I did a ton of research before settling on the light box I purchased.
(I’d recommend anyone wanting to purchase a bright light therapy box to check with your doctor first because they might be able to help you decide on the one that best fits your personal needs.)
NatureBright Light and Ion Therapy Lamp
- UV-free light mimics effects of a sunny blue sky
- Slim, upright design fits almost anywhere
- Ideal for use on dull wintry days
- 10,000 lux bright light therapy powered by SkyEffect technology
- Optional negative ionizer showers you in 4.5 x 10^14 ions per second
- Built-in timer at 15, 30, 45 and 60 minute intervals
I chose this lamp because it was within a reasonable price range and had great reviews on every site I checked. I had narrowed it down between this lamp and the Lightphoria 10,000 LUX Energy Light Lamp, mostly due to price. Ultimately I decided that I like the larger area of light. The NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp had a much larger area of bright light display. It made it less portable but ultimately I thought the wider area would outweigh the portability aspect since I planned to use it in my bedroom every day. I also liked the 30 day money back guarantee in case I tried it and decided it was a worthless experiment.
I set the light therapy lamp up on my desk in the corner of my bedroom. Since my room is pretty dark in the mornings I also turn on my desk lamp and use the lamp and the light therapy box at the same time. The light box has a timer that you can set so it will shut off after your session is done so it is not overused.
I’ve been using it for 30 minutes each day as soon as I wake up. While using the lamp I sit at my desk and either read, journal, or use my computer. I let the light cover my face and occasionally glance at it since it says it works through the retinas (it doesn’t deliver ultra-violet rays). It’s a very bright light and lights up my whole room with a pleasant bright white light. I have used the “ion therapy” part a couple times but will most likely ignore that feature entirely as the light is really what I need. I sit around a foot to a foot and a half away from the light, similar to the picture below.
I’ve been using the light box for just under one week and I have noticed a difference. Honestly in the beginning I didn’t think I would (hello money back guarantee!). I was skeptical and pessimistic about the whole concept. By day two I felt worse than I had in a couple weeks and determined it was a failure. However, I knew I should give it a fair shake so I continued to force myself up half an hour earlier to use it for 30 minutes.
Around the fourth day I felt a shift and the last two days I’ve felt great. Positive. Optimistic. Normal. I’ve had less trouble waking up and I’ve actually wanted to go to sleep at a reasonable time. It feels so great to actually fall asleep and wake up like a normal person! The light box seems to be training my brain to release seratonin in the morning which triggers the awake mode and makes me feel more energetic and happy. This is the main use and why light therapy boxes have been used for a while, so I’m happy to report it seems to be working for me within a week of use.
Since I’ve only used this light therapy box for a week the real verdict is still out. It’s showing positive signs of being effective but I’ll need to use it for a few more weeks before I decide if it is truly worth it for me or not. So far I’m feeling like it was a really great purchase and is going to completely change how I make it through the winter this year. That’s something to be excited about!
If you’d like more information about it, check it out on Amazon through my affiliate link: NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy.
I’ll post again soon outlining all of my techniques to combat the winter blues and feel more energetic in winter. I’ve found several things that seem to be working well for me so far, and if you suffer from being down during the winter maybe they will help you too!
Feel free to leave comments on what has worked for you too or if you’ve used a light therapy box before and have suggestions or tips!