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Mental Health

Lighten Your Mood Even in The Darkest Days

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Fall is such a tease. First, the cooler days and spectacular leaf show. Then the gloom—earlier sunsets, bleak landscapes, and cold weather setting in. The shift is so difficult for so many people that it is a disorder of its own. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more likely to affect women than men, and it’s no surprise to anyone that it’s also more common where the skies are grayer and the temperatures lower.

Are you experiencing SAD? If your mood shifts when the season changes and you find yourself sleeping and eating more and enjoying life less, you may benefit from a steady exercise routine and a whole lot of light. For as many as 80% of people who face SAD, daily light therapy with a high-intensity light box reduces symptoms.

Makes sense, right? You’re missing sunlight. Your brain needs those light-induced chemicals, and whatever you can do to simulate sunshine helps you feel better. Here’s how to get the boost you need.

Start early

Most people get better results from using a light box when they first wake up. There’s something to be said for starting your day with sunshine, and that something is a serotonin boost that tends to lift your mood and increase your energy level. Better than donuts by a bright country mile.

Get lux

Lux is the measurement of light output in a given area, and for light therapy, you want a 10,000 lux light box. Can a full-spectrum light bulb give you the same effect? Well, yes, in theory, but you’re less likely to be able to soak in the concentrated rays if you’re just sitting in a room with a bulb than you are when you use a light box that’s designed to deliver those precious lumens straight to your light-hungry skin (and then into your stressed-out brain, where the serotonin starts flowing).

Be consistent

For most people who experience SAD, results happen fast—within three to five days—but they can also disappear fast. Aim for about 30 minutes in front of a light box every day. If you’re using a lower-intensity light box, you’ll need more time. That’s not too hard to manage, though: If you can keep the lightbox within about two feet of your face, you’re getting the benefit, so you can soak up your daily lumens while you work, read or freshen up that at-home attempt at a pedicure.

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