• Alyssa Barton

How To Fight Dreariness This Winter With LIGHT!

The winter solstice has come and gone but the days are still short and cold for most folks living in the U.S. (unless you’re in Miami, the Keys, or Hawaii). Here in Seattle we should get about 8 hours and 38 minutes of daylight today (Monday, January 7): the sun will be up from 7:57am to 4:33pm today. But that won’t help if it’s cloudy and rainy, as it often is in the Pacific Northwest from November through June! What to do?

If you’re like me you might find never-ending gray and cloudy days to be monotonous and kind of depressing. They aren’t so bad until you forget the last time you saw blue in the sky. You might start to feel like it’ll never be sunny again. That’s when SAD – or Seasonal Affective Disorder – can kick in. When it does, bringing a little sunshine and brightness to your life can really help.

When I moved to Seattle from Miami, Florida, an attorney who had transplanted here from New York recommended a happy light. “Hands-down,” he said, “this will be the best piece of advice I can give you.” I thought, “Pffft, a happy light?” But underneath my bravado I was a bit nervous.

Having basked like a lizard in the warmth of the sun 24/7/365 in Miami for 10 years, my experiences with the cold gray northern climes were limited to brief vacations to Maryland, New York, and Iceland. Notwithstanding, I did OK with the winter gray until my first February. Then one day while I was at home wallowing around, watching Netflix and overeating while generally avoiding being productive, I realized I was depressed.

It was a shocker. Depression? I hadn’t felt that way since I was a teenager – it was such a foreign state of mind that I’d probably been experiencing it for days or even weeks until it finally dawned on me what was going on. Whoa. I immediately got online and got a happy light- this one, to be exact.. I started experimenting with it and what I found is that for me, it’s most effective if I wake up 15 minutes earlier than necessary and snooze for 15 minutes with the light blasting in my face while I lie in bed. You position the light about a foot (12 inches) away from your face and you can get the full on, lizard on a rock effect for between 10 – 30 minutes. Works like a charm.

Working the happy light into my daily routine helped, big time! I haven’t found myself getting depressed since I got it. I don’t have to use it every day, but in the winter I often do. It’s easy to get my shine on first thing in the morning and it adds just the right amount of pep and energy to my day – I won’t say it makes me feel “happy” per say, but I don’t feel sad.

After I got the happy light, I started looking for other lightful options to brighten my winter world.

One super effective strategy I’ve implemented is to swap out old 60 watt lightbulbs in my apartment as they die and replace them with energy conserving, natural light, bright white LED bulbs. I use 3000K bright white lightbulbs with 1600 lumens – so bright! You can get a 4 pack for a great deal here. I love these, and surprisingly, they save energy (and $ off your light bill!)

My most recent addition to the light-collection is my light-up alarm clock. Mimicking the sunrise, it turns on dimly and gradually increases in brightness starting 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off. This helps start to gently wake me up before the alarm goes off, when the light is at its brightest. The alarm clock comes pre-loaded with a few neat alarms – though some are annoying - including bird song (my fav). The clock is inexpensive and a creative way to help stimulate your senses while bringing up your energy level in the morning – you might find yourself awake before the alarm goes off as a result of the light.

Finally, I’ve recently found another excuse to lighten things up. I’m a fan of plants – and like me, they need to photosynthesize. I’ve perked up my apartment with aloe, airplants, spider plants, herbs, and more – and to help out indoors, you can get indoor plant lights. I’m looking at this one (which is currently on sale). With two swiveling arms and a clip so you can clamp or screw the lamp on the side of a desk, it looks like a great office option to bring a little bit of the warmth of the outdoors, in! Though, I’ve found that actually getting outside – especially on days when there is blue in the sky - can be the best remedy of all. :)

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