Tag Archives: seasonal affective disorder

How I Combat Winter Depression, Even in Sunny Texas

I originally moved to Austin, Texas, in 2000 in an attempt to escape from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. I had been living for almost 9 years in Olympia, Washington, and the seasonal depression grew worse for me every year. Even in sunny Texas, though, the combination of the overcast weather and staying indoors during the colder months can still lead to the winter blues. I have finally found something that works very well for me…I would say perfectly. And it is much easier and cheaper than the crazy bright, expensive, 4 foot long full-spectrum fluorescent lamp that I used in the 90s.

Philips GoLITE BLU

Philips GoLITE BLU

I use a blue light therapy lamp every morning, year-round, and it simply works. Scientists have discovered that it isn’t necessary to expose yourself to the full spectrum white light that people used to use. Simply exposing yourself to the blue part of the spectrum has the same benefits. What this means in the real-world is that the light is bright, but nothing like the old lamps that doctors used to recommend, which were blindingly bright. The blue light lamp is a small, portable device that you can easily throw into your luggage to take on a trip.

The way I use it is this: I get up 45 minutes before I need to shower and start getting ready for work. I grab my coffee, and then I sit down in front of the computer. The therapy lamp sits to the right of my computer monitor, directly next to the monitor, approximately 24 inches from my face. I turn on the blue light and spend 30 minutes checking email, browsing Facebook, or reading the news. The light is positioned so that it shines ON my face, but not directly into my eyes (you don’t have to stare into the light or anything like that). The lamp has a timer that I have set for 30 minutes. I simply push the on button and it turns on the light and counts down the 30 minutes, after which it shuts itself off.

The benefits I get from this daily regimen are clear: I have increased alertness in the early morning, so I am ready to work once I arrive at work (no slow start to the mornings). I experience a boost in mood. And my sleep/wake cycle is kept in check. This is perfect for those mornings after the spring time change, when you lose an hour of sleep. The blue light tells your body to reset its circadian cycle. I have no problem waking up in the morning, but beyond that, I also sleep better at night. I fall asleep easily now.

There are other blue lights available, but I don’t have experience with them. I have been using this therapy lamp for winter depression daily for over 6 years now, and I have no hesitation in giving it my highest recommendation.