Light therapy is a way to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and certain other conditions by exposure to artificial light. SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time each year, usually in the fall or winter. During light therapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box.
Every autumn it’s the same. My sprightly post-summer mood evaporates, and a rather stubborn cloud of despair appears in its place. Ah, hello again, seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder, often referred to using the painfully apt acronym SAD, affects one in three people in the UK, and statistics indicate that women are 40 per cent more likely to suffer with it. Whether it’s a mild case of “winter blues” or spirals into full-blown depression, it comes with a raft of symptoms ranging from a lack of energy and changes to appetite and sleeping patterns, to feeling sad, tearful or hopeless. When it’s really serious, SAD can lead to suicidal thoughts, for which professional help should always be sought.
For me, it manifests as lethargy, an uptick in hunger (at all times), and the sort of sadness and sporadic crying fits that I just don’t experience the rest of the year. I am lucky that it isn’t worse, but especially last year, it started to impact my daily life. Luckily, my job at Vogue involves researching all manner of maladies and wellness trends, which led me to come across light therapy, and subsequently the Lumie Vitamin L SAD Lamp.
Since SAD is linked to the fact we are less exposed to sunlight within the winter months – cue a disruption to our circadian rhythms and a lack of happy-making serotonin – one way of treating it is with artificial light (or light therapy). SAD lamps essentially beam a very bright light into our cells, prompting them to react as though it is real sunlight they’re absorbing, which can help ease symptoms. It’s not just any old light – sitting in front of the Anglepoise on your desk sadly won’t cut it – rather, 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light with 20 times the power of ordinary indoor lighting.
All you have to do is sit between 16 and 50cm from the lamp, eyes forward and directly in front of it, for at least 20 minutes each day – morning is best. I now do this each morning while putting my make-up on. If nothing else, it’s an excellent light in which to apply foundation, but be religious with it and – according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association – it will help dispel a low mood in 85 per cent of cases.
I can personally vouch for it. Having come across the Lumie lamp slap-bang in the middle of last winter, I saw a marked difference during the second half. I actually felt a little more chipper after day one of using it for 20 minutes first thing, but a week in, I was back. My mood lifted, my energy levels returned to normal, I could (finally) resist the chocolate stash, and – most importantly – I felt like myself again. It might be the best £75 I ever spent.