Happy Light Therapy

In the cold, dark months of winter many of us feel a little sluggish and a little blue. The change in sunlight certainly affects most people to some degree, but for some people the decrease in sunlight hours marks the start of a yearly depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, complete with excessive fatigue and an increase in feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.

People sometimes try tough it out because when spring time rolls around and the sun shines more, they know they will start to feel better. Yet, especially in northern climates, winter is a long, long season and it makes sense to explore treatment options available.


While it’s not a separate disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of major depression that is clinically diagnosable by medical professionals.

SAD is sometimes confused with the winter blues which is not a medical condition, but has similar symptoms of melancholy and lethargy. Seasonal Affective Disorder is more persistent, though, with more severe symptoms that can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning and function.


As with other forms of depression, doctors may prescribe one of these treatment options for SAD:

-Psychotherapy (specifically cognitive behavioral therapy)


-Light Therapy

Another treatment option is light therapy, or using a light box specifically designed for SAD symptoms. Light therapy can be used in conjunction with other treatment options or on its own. (NOTE: Doctors may use caution in prescribing light therapy for people with a diagnosis of SAD and bipolar disorder as it may cause manic symptoms to worsen. Newer research suggests, however, that light therapy can benefit people with bipolar disorder.)


One of the hallmarks of SAD is that the symptoms tend to appear at the same time each year. That’s because one of the triggers for SAD is the being exposed to a lower level of sunlight throughout the day. The change in sunlight affects our circadian rhythms and can cause a decrease in serotonin production as well as reduced Vitamin D levels, both of which have been linked to depression.

A light box mimics the signals we usually get from the sun and triggers the release of chemicals, including serotonin that can lift our mood. Sitting in front of one of these devices for roughly 30 minutes each day has been shown to be effective in 70% of people with SAD symptoms.

The recommendations for using a light box include: 1. Using the box in the morning hours. Otherwise the chemicals triggered can interfere with sleep patterns. 2. Positioning the light box correctly. Observe the manufacturer’s recommended distance and height measurements.

Also, you want to observe these cautions for using light boxes:

-Consult with your doctor before starting light therapy. Your doctor may want to begin slowly and monitor changes as they occur.

-Do NOT substitute light therapy boxes that are designed to treat skin conditions and these contain unfiltered UV rays and can damage your eyes.

-If you have eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts or diabetes, check with your eye doctor before using light therapy.


$20 per session 

Call: (989) 759-9601 to make your appointment