What’s the best way to beat the winter blues?
Last winter, the only thing that stopped me from completely losing it, was the SAD lamp I purchased* on a wing and a prayer.
Just to give a little background, SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder which is also referred to by many as the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is triggered by the seasons. Most often, it’s triggered in the winter months.
A SAD lamp is a light therapy device that mimics the natural light from the outdoors. The light therapy device is believed to affect the brain chemicals linked to your mood and can potentially help restore balance and energy.
My Seasonal Affective Disorder Story
For two years, I lived in Montreal, Quebec with my family as a part of a job relocation with my husband’s company. Moving from the mild and sunny South Carolina winters to the dark and freezing Quebec winters was an extremely rough transition for me.
I knew that it would be a cold and snowy winter, however, I was not at all prepared for the long stretches of sunless days or how that lack of sunlight would make me feel.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so many negative emotions at one time in my life. Day after day I experienced:
- mood swings
- social isolation
- and the most negative thoughts I’ve ever had
At the time, I had no clue that all of these were symptoms of SAD. I suffered silently for a long time not knowing why I felt so bad or what I could possibly do about it other than talk to a therapist.
The fatigue and the social isolation were the worst for me. Sometimes I would just stay curled up in my bed all day long as the waves of hopelessness and loneliness washed over me. Other days, I would make myself get up and get active, only to end up crying every other hour or so for no obvious reason.
It was frustrating and scary.
Taking hot showers seemed to be the only thing that temporarily improved my mood. So, I would end up taking 2-3 showers a day just to cope.
On days when the sun decided to show itself, I felt like a completely different person.
Suddenly, I was refreshed and renewed. My productivity shot through the roof and I would feel like my old bubbly self again. But the extreme change in mood made me feel unstable–and I hated it.
Then I Bought a SAD Lamp
It was one of my blogging friends who suggested that I might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder and encouraged me to purchase a SAD lamp to give light therapy a try.
At the time, I had no idea how to choose the best light therapy lamp. I eventually decided to purchase the Verilux HappyLight Energy Lamp for two reasons.
Reason #1 The product had the word “happy” in it and more than anything HAPPY was the emotion that I wanted to feel flowing through me again. (Not a great way to choose a product–I know–but it’s the truth.)
Reason #2 The product had hundreds of positive reviews that made me feel comfortable with my decision.
I chose the 10,000 lux light for $79 over the 5,000 lux light for $39 because the lower-intensity light boxes, while less expensive, may require a longer session to feel the effects.
There was also the option to purchase the light box with a timer for $99 but I didn’t really see the need for it.
SAD Lamp Instructions and Routine
As soon as my Verilux HappyLight arrived, I wasted no time putting it to good use.
The instructions suggest that you place the light therapy device no further than 24 inches away from your face and at a slight angle. Keep your eyes open. Allow yourself a 20-30 minute session per day.
My daily routine:
- Take the kids to school
- Eat breakfast and listen to a guided meditation
- Set my SAD Lamp on my desk
- Sit in front of the lamp for 30 minutes while answering emails, responding to comments, or just relaxing and listening to an audiobook.
Using light therapy while getting my work done made me feel extra productive, so I was pretty happy with the routine I had in place.
I made a habit of using the SAD lamp at the very beginning of my day. On sunny days, I would skip using the lamp and soak up the natural light instead. But on those frequent days when there was little to no sunshine, I spent a little extra time with the light to help my mood.
SAD Lamp Results
After the first 3-4 days of using the energy lamp, I absolutely felt a positive change in my mood. After months of feeling as if I was losing control, I finally felt like I was gaining it back.
I had more energy.
Slept better at night.
Felt much less irritable (this change was confirmed by my husband and kids)
And I was happier.
To be able to honestly say, “I feel happier”, was a major win for me!
Thankfully, I’ve now moved back to South Carolina where there is more sunshine in the winter months. However, even here I’ve had a few cloudy days where I could feel my mood tipping.
The good news is that I am now better prepared to deal with the winter blues. It doesn’t have to take control of my life ever again.
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*Please note that I am not a medical professional and this post is not meant to be medical advice. I’m simply sharing my positive experience with you. Always do your own research and seek advice from a qualified licensed professional.