Treating Depression Naturally: Bright Light Therapy

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Even though it’s only December, I find myself eagerly anticipating the return of summer. I relish warm weather, a few extra hours of sunlight each evening and strong, bright sunshine. Winter, on the other hand, makes me feel glum. Darkness sets in before I return home from work, leaving me to spend each evening in the company of a few uninspiring light bulbs. Even when the sun is shining, its weak rays can make early afternoon feel more like late evening–something I find less than appealing.

Summer’s strong rays of sunshine make it easy to get enough light and vitamin D for optimal mental health. Photo By Boudewijn Berends/Courtesy Flickr.

Light can have a major impact on mental health. Lower levels of light in wintertime affect production of melatonin and other hormones, leaving us lethargic and moody, and winter’s weak sunlight often isn’t enough to activate normal production of vitamin D, an important nutrient for optimal mental health. In these instances–when depression is caused by seasonal light changes–bright light therapy can be helpful.

The Therapeutic Lifestyle Change program recommends getting 30 minutes of bright light exposure every day. In summer, this can be as simple as stepping outside and bathing in the sun’s ray (don’t forget the sunscreen though!). In winter, when natural sources of bright light are harder to come by, consider using a light box. Specially designed light boxes emit 10,000 lux, the same amount of light you would receive from the sun and 100 times the amount of light you receive from indoor lighting. The TLC program recommends using the light box at the same time every day.

Using a light box for 30 minutes each day can help relieve symptoms of depression. Photo Courtesy Light Therapy Products.

Bright light therapy acts swiftly–you can see improvement in as little as five days–but real, lasting results come with continued use of the light box, so be sure to use it every day.

Remember: Bright light therapy is not a cure-all for depression but just one component of the TLC program’s natural approach to treating depression. Depression is a chronic illness; if you think you may have depression, please consult your doctor.

Read the original post, “Treating Depression Naturally: The Therapeutic Lifestyle Change Program.”

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