Q&A: Beating the Winter Blues

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Filed Under: Q&As, Mood & Memory
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

I’ve got a bad case of the winter blues. Any ideas for perking me up?


Feeling down and out during the wintertime is quite common. The shorter days and long, dark nights have a profound effect on many of us and, for some, trigger a serious case of winter blues.

If you are looking for a natural way to lift your mood, make a conscious effort to bathe yourself in light. Try your best to spend at least an hour outdoors in the sun every day. While indoors, remember to look out the window every so often. And if you aren’t blessed with sunny weather, consider investing in full-spectrum lighting or a light box, both of which contain all the wavelengths of natural light (all the colors of the rainbow).

In one of the earliest studies on the therapeutic use of full-spectrum light, researchers treated patients who needed a mood boost by lengthening their “days.” For an hour before dawn and an hour after dusk, the subjects sat in front of a full-spectrum light box.

For most, the response was miraculous: The winter blues evaporated in a matter of days and were held at bay as long as subjects received the extra light. If they were away from their light boxes for a few days, lo and behold, those bummed-out feelings returned.

New research also suggests that “light deficiency” can be a problem for some people throughout the year and the mood-boosting effects of light therapy aren’t limited to the cold, dark winter months. Spending time in front of a light-box or using full-spectrum lighting in your home can positively influence all areas of your health and well-being year-round.

One easy way to reap the benefits of light therapy is to purchase a two- or four-tube light fixture fitted with full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Mount it on the wall or prop it up at eye level and simply sit near it a couple of times a day.

Another option is to replace some of the bulbs in the light fixtures in your home and office with full-spectrum bulbs, creating a full-spectrum room of your own. You don’t have to replace every fixture, but the majority of lighting in the rooms where you spend the most time should be full-spectrum in order to get the proper effect.

A light box is another alternative that combines full-spectrum bulbs in a smaller, more portable package. Verilux is one reputable company that offers several full-spectrum lighting options. Ott-Lite also sells full-spectrum lamps, bulbs, and tubes.

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