Brighten Your Mood with Light Therapy: The Importance of Sunlight during the Winter Months

In OHI’s Elimination class, we talk about how sunlight is an essential ingredient for good health, and scientific studies have shown the effects of light on the body are more than just psychological. Sunlight prompts our physical systems to produce the hormones directly responsible for improving mood and creating a sense of well-being. Sunlight also helps our bodies produce vitamin D and maintain calcium in our bones, which in turn prevents our bones from becoming thin and brittle. Sunlight can have a major influence on how we feel and boost our productivity, literally giving us energy for life. We only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day.

And what about those who live in a climate that’s not consistently sunny? Or where gray cloudy skies block the sun during the fall and winter months? You may have felt sad or tired during the winter simply because there are fewer hours of daylight in the winter, and that lack of light is impacting your mood. Many people report succumbing to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter. SAD is a type of depression that occurs in the fall and winter when daylight is limited, and symptoms include sluggishness, sleep problems, change in diet, and even loss of mental acuity.

SAD symptoms can decrease or be alleviated by getting enough sunlight. Light therapy lamps bring daylight indoors by emitting a bright white, full-spectrum light that safely mimics sunlight (without the harmful UV-rays).

Light therapy (also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy) is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms. Using a light therapy box may also help with other types of depression, sleep disorders, and other conditions. Light therapy improves mood and energy by triggering the release of serotonin. Light therapy improves sleep and focus by resetting your circadian rhythm to its natural state, and regulating melatonin.

During light therapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. To be effective, light from the light box must enter your eyes indirectly. You can’t get the same effect merely by exposing your skin to the light. While your eyes must be open, don’t look directly at the light box, because the bright light can damage your eyes.

Light therapy is most effective when you invest the time consistently. Stick to your light therapy schedule, and don’t overdo it. Light therapy is a proper combination of light intensity, duration, and timing.

1. Intensity: The intensity of the light box is recorded in lux, which is a measure of the amount of light you receive. For SAD, the typical recommendation is to use a 10,000-lux box at a distance of about 16”-24” from your face.

2. Duration: With a 10,000-lux light box, light therapy typically involves daily sessions of about 20-30 minutes. A lower-intensity light box, such as 2,500-lux, may require longer sessions.

3. Timing: For most people, light therapy is most effective when it’s done early in the morning.

Light therapy is a clinically-proven treatment for SAD, but it might not completely cure Seasonal Affective Disorder. But consistent light therapy sessions will ease symptoms, increase your energy levels, and help improve your mood. Light therapy can start to ease symptoms within just a few days, or in some cases it can take two or more weeks to feel better.

So the next time you’re feeling the “winter blues,” set up a light box and other Alpha techniques to help you improve your mood and achieve a calm, relaxed state – and let the sunshine in.

At Optimum Health Institute, we teach you how to use light to help you heal. During your visit, our caring team can help you achieve your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.