Light Therapy: Shedding Some Light On Winter Blues

Getting really practical today. Talking about winter blues and how I combat them. Especially when coming down off of a Holiday High.

I grew up in Boston, which basically meant no sunlight from October to April. Ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not much. I wasn’t self-aware enough to observe how this affected me, but I do remember gaining 5 pounds of hibernation weight each winter and having a hard time waking up in the mornings in the pitch dark. And there was a lot of Dunkin Donuts coffee involved.winter blues

My 20’s were spent in Alabama and Florida and WOW what a difference.  Mild winters, sandy beaches, no need for jackets, and so.much.sun.  The Sicilian in me flourished. I noticed having more energy, more pep, more cheeriness. Meeting my husband may have also been a determining factor,  but still…Plan_Beach_1_header_945209b9-7bcb-4052-a8f1-a01d98eb65d3The early years of our marriage were spent in Boston and Philadelphia. And though they produced countless fond memories (and 5 children) there was a lot of cold and darkness and snow.  Two memories in particular stick out as being my clues that something was amiss.

Clue #1: Boston Blizzard.  2011.  I was miserably pregnant with Caramia, and the boys were 1 & 2.  We were basically homebound for months due to cold and snow.  Sure, I probably could’ve gotten out a tad more if I had the energy to devote 20+ minutes to bundling up crying toddlers (torturous for parent and child alike) only to have them go outside and cry some more. I remember standing by the front door staring into the blinding white snow piling up like my anxiety and morning sickness. I was lost in a fog for I don’t know how long before I was brought back to the present by the clanging of glass. My toddlers were playing in the recycles.  And my first thought was ‘at least it’s keeping them busy.’  Snow is seen piled up on a snowbank in the Suffolk County town of Dix Hills, New York

Clue #2: Soon after, we moved to Philly and it was a slight upgrade weather-wise.  But winters were still cold and dark and we spent more time than I preferred inside.  There was a lot of Netflix.  One day, I had the 4 kids bundled up in the van as I was pumping gas.  I was uncomfortably pregnant with #5, bundled up in heavy winter gear protecting me from the elements. And at that moment I said out loud, ‘I hate this. I don’t want to protect myself from nature; from the weather.  I want to enjoy it.  Immerse myself in it.’

*Five months later we would move to Georgia.

Also around this time, a dear relative and natural health guru took pity on my emotional and physical slow decline and sent me a sun lamp. This one. I started sitting in front of it 20 minutes every morning and the difference was uh.may.zing.  I felt more upbeat, energized, cheerier.  I didn’t need caffeine to pick me up.  I didn’t feel as gray, down, unmotivated. Stressors didn’t stress me as much.

This is our second year living in Georgia, and though much milder than my Northern winters, I still find myself slipping. Eating poorly. Sleeping poorly. Feeling down and unmotivated. Flat.

So out comes the sun lamp!  sunEach night before bed, I place it on my dining room table to greet me in the morning.  I make my cup of coffee and sit in front of the light for 20 minutes while I read, journal & return emails.  The difference in my mood really is amazing.  But perhaps the most convincing testimony comes from my husband, who didn’t know I had started light therapy two days prior.  He stopped me and asked, ‘Something’s different. What are you doing? You’re not as uptight.’  And because I wasn’t as uptight, his observation didn’t bother me. Ha!

*When the children wake up, they eat their breakfast basking in the light.  Sure, it feels a bit like an interrogation, but oh well.

The NY Times ran an article on this topic several years ago that you might find helpful. And for those of you who enjoy White Papers and can speak Medical, this one’s for you. If you’d like the summary of both, here’s my spin: if you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, Sleep Disorders, Depression, Winter Blues, etc, sun light therapy might help!  But know that all sunlamps aren’t created equal, so research well before purchasing.  I do know that the one I use, Day-Light, comes highly recommended by professional.  And me:)

Wishing you a healthy, happy, sunny New Year!

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