Does light therapy help seasonal depression?

I know what you’re thinking:

Light therapy? You expect me to believe that sitting under a *special lamp* will make me less depressed?

Surprisingly, it just might. Read on to find out how.

What’s seasonal depression?

Seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder, and SAD all refer to the same thing. In the DSM-V, it’s listed as Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern.

No matter how you label it, seasonal depression is ROUGH.

Do you notice a change in yourself when the world transitions to winter?

Do you sleep more?

Go out less?

Feel down or worthless?

Put on weight?

Feel exhausted all the time?

Feel restlessness or like you’re moving in slow motion?

If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, you may have seasonal depression.

The only way to know for sure is to be diagnosed by a mental health professional. See a therapist and/or psychiatrist for an accurate diagnosis.

What causes seasonal depression?

In short, we don’t know.

Some people think that when the time changes and the days become shorter, there’s a shift in our circadian rhythms. Our internal clock is suddenly off balance, which causes a domino effect. Our sleep schedule is off, which impacts our energy, which impacts our mood, and so on.

Other people blame seasonal depression on the decrease in Vitamin D, typically provided by the sun.

Still others believe decreased sunlight decreases our serotonin levels.

If any of these hypotheses are true, light therapy seems like an obvious solution.

What’s light therapy?

Light therapy (phototherapy, if you’re fancy) is consistently spending time under a specialized lamp designed to simulate sunlight.

I know, I know. It sounds like something a fourth grader invented for a science fair project.

But the research is pretty compelling.

What does the research show?

One early study was done in 1998 by Eastman et. al. The researchers concluded that 20 minutes of light treatment per morning improved mood in 61% of the study participants. That’s a pretty high statistical significance!

A 2009 study by Virk et. al. actually indicated an immediate, small improvement in mood after just one, 20-minute light session.

There are many other studies you’re welcome to look up. The bottom line is, light therapy is evidence-based!

With all of that said…

Research indicates light therapy is effective, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for everyone. Every person is different.

In some rare instances, light therapy has been linked to onset of manic episodes and suicidal ideation.

It’s important to consult a professional before starting light treatment.

Light Therapy Tips

It’s not just any old light.

You can’t shine a flashlight in your face and call it light therapy (as convenient as that sounds).

You have to have a specific type of light, often called a sun lamp or happy light. The Mayo Clinic recommends purchasing a light therapy box that filters out ultraviolet (UV) rays.

You can find many ‘happy lights’ for sale on Amazon. Do your research and read reviews before purchasing.

Don’t look directly.

Don’t look directly into the light; this could hurt your vision.

Just turn the light on while you eat breakfast, check e-mails, or do whatever you usually do in the morning.

Timing matters.

Light therapy is MOST effective in the morning.

You’ll want to leave your light box on for 20-40 minutes. Less than 20 minutes may not be enough. Over 40 minutes probably won’t hurt, but you won’t get any additional benefit, either.

Light therapy alternatives

There are other treatments for seasonal depression. Often, they work well together!

Psychotherapy

One popular alternative to light therapy is good, old-fashioned psychotherapy.

A mental health therapist can help you identify ways to cope. These might include more exercise, better sleep hygiene, and tools for motivation.

Therapy can help folks process factors that make depression worse. If the holidays bring about a lot of stress or grief, talking to a therapist about it can help.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular therapy treatment that many therapists provide. CBT helps folks look at how their thoughts, feelings and behaviors are impacting their mental health.

CBT is also indicated for seasonal depression. A study by Rohan et. al. indicated that CBT and light therapy had equally effective outcomes for seasonal affective disorder.

Psychiatric medications

Anti-depressant medications often help alleviate symptoms of SAD. Wellbutrin is a popular choice because it increases energy.

To find out if psych meds will help you with seasonal depression, schedule an evaluation with a psychiatrist, registered nurse, or advanced nurse practitioner.

Have you tried light therapy? Did it work for you? Let me know in the comments.

– Rebecca

100 Things to be Grateful for

Hey, friends!

I’m re-releasing a post about gratitude from last year, with some small updates. Enjoy!

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne

It’s that time of year again – Thanksgiving! A great reminder to practice gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to manage depression and anxiety.

Ever try to practice gratitude, but run out of ideas? Well you’re in luck, because here are 100 of mine.

Some of the things on this list are so… basic.

Remember, there are likely people in your own neighborhood who are missing things you take for granted.

A refrigerator may seem like a silly thing to be grateful for… but once yours stops working, you realize how important it is.

You may not be able to tick off everything on this list. Focus your attention on what you do have. It may sound harsh, but the truth is that life doesn’t owe us a damn thing. We are lucky for anything and everything we have.

100 Things to be Grateful for

  1. Somewhere to live
  2. Something to eat
  3. Clothing
  4. Shoes
  5. Winter wear (coat, scarves, hats, etc.)
  6. Access to a working shower and toilet
  7. Access to clean water
  8. Electricity
  9. Somewhere convenient to buy groceries
  10. An internet connection
  11. Air conditioning
  12. Heat
  13. A dishwasher
  14. A garbage disposal
  15. A refrigerator
  16. A stove
  17. An oven
  18. A microwave
  19. Somewhere to wash our clothes
  20. A car, or other mode of transportation
  21. A heart that pumps on its own, or with assisted devices
  22. Muscles that move
  23. Strong bones
  24. Teeth
  25. Any parts of our bodies that do not experience chronic pain
  26. Everything we love about the way our bodies look
  27. The ability to care for our hygiene and grooming
  28. The ability to change our mind
  29. The ability to change our attitude
  30. Eyes that see
  31. Ears that hear
  32. A nose that smells
  33. The ability to taste
  34. The ability to touch
  35. The ability to walk, or to use assisted devices to be mobile
  36. Fine motor skills
  37. The ability to smile
  38. The ability to laugh
  39. The ability to communicate with each other
  40. The ability to read
  41. The ability to write
  42. The ability to count and do basic math
  43. The ability to create music and art
  44. The ability to learn
  45. The ability to grow as a person
  46. The ability to work
  47. A job
  48. The ability to build things
  49. The ability to help others
  50. The ability to forgive
  51. The ability to love
  52. Holding hands
  53. Hugs
  54. Kisses
  55. Sex
  56. A friend or friends
  57. Parents, a parent, or a caregiver
  58. A sibling or siblings
  59. A childhood mentor, teacher, or anyone who believed in you
  60. An adult mentor
  61. A significant other
  62. Children
  63. Grandchildren
  64. Great-grandchildren
  65. Aunts
  66. Uncles
  67. Cousins
  68. Godparents
  69. Chosen family
  70. Anyone in your life you can go to if you need help
  71. Babies
  72. The ability to create life
  73. A pet or pets
  74. A salary, social security, or retirement fund
  75. Health insurance
  76. Access to healthcare
  77. Mental health services
  78. A gym membership
  79. Trees
  80. Flowers
  81. Grass
  82. Public parks
  83. Art
  84. Museums
  85. Freedom of speech
  86. Freedom of religion
  87. Other rights we have in our country of origin
  88. Books
  89. Movies
  90. T.V.
  91. Tea and coffee
  92. Cozy pillows and blankets
  93. Chocolate
  94. Candles
  95. Hot baths and showers
  96. Spa treatments, massage, mani-pedis etc.
  97. Vacations and travel
  98. Time – down time, time to spend with friends and family, etc.
  99. Moments of peace and joy
  100. Life itself

What on this list do you take for granted, that you feel grateful for this season? Comment below.

Gratefully yours,

Rebecca

What type of Worrier are You?

I define worry as the narrative our brains write during anxiety.

If you’re a worrier, you’re not alone. Worriers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. In this article, I go through five common types of worriers.

Worries aren’t all bad – they also have their perks. Read on to find out more!

The Fortune Teller

This worrier tries to see into the future, years down the road. They want to plan out where they’ll live, how much money they’ll have, when they’ll get married, how many kids they’ll have and what their names will be…

Perks: When used effectively, the fortune teller’s worries can be useful. This worrier might squirrel away money for a rainy day, and be ahead of schedule in application processes. These actions often pay off long-term.

Pitfalls: Since the fortune teller is always thinking twelve steps ahead, they may not spend much time in the present moment. They may be making themselves miserable planning for disasters that will never even happen.

My two cents: If you tend to be a fortune teller, remember to bring yourself back to the here-and-now. Enjoy life while you’re living it.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

– Ferris Bueller

The Social Worrier*

Before or during social events, the social worrier may wonder, What if I say something stupid? What if my anxiety gets bad and people notice?

After social events, the social worrier may run back the tape. Was that person offended by that thing I said? Maybe that look on their face meant they were mad at me

Perks: Social worriers tend to be kind people. Their concern for others and the way others perceive them is often a sign of how deeply they care for people.

Pitfalls: When social anxiety gets really bad, people may begin to avoid social gatherings. They might feel they need alcohol and drugs to ‘loosen up’ in these settings.

My two cents: Remember that other people think about themselves way more than they think about you. Be honest with others about your worries when you can; often, just getting them out there eases the tension.

*If your social anxiety is interfering with work or relationships, see a therapist. Social anxiety can be very debilitating.

The Work Worrier

The work worrier may have anxiety about public speaking, one of the world’s most common fears.

They may beat themselves up for making mistakes, or failing to perform at 100%. They may have anxiety before going into work in the morning, and relief after leaving in the evenings.

Perks: Work worriers are often high achievers and perfectionists. Their worries frequently indicate their dedication to their career.

Pitfalls: When work worries get bad enough, they can negatively impact performance. If worrying takes more time and energy than completing the day’s tasks, it could become a big impediment… to mental health as well as career.

My two cents: Take time off. Take lunch breaks. Establish boundaries, both in and outside of work. And if a toxic work environment is creating your work worries, find another job if you can.

The Financial Worrier

This type of worrier might check their bank account multiple times a day. They experience stress about paying bills in the present, or having enough money in the future.

Perks: In some circumstances, worrying about finances can lead to responsible behavior. Financial worriers might cook instead of ordering in, save instead of splurge. And saving can absolutely pay off.

Pitfalls: It’s a slippery slope from financial worrier to control freak. When financial worriers begin projecting their worries onto those around them (for example, judging their partner for buying name-brand items), it can lead to relationship problems.

My two cents: Ha! Cents! Get it? Anyway… I know money stuff is mega stressful. As important as money is, it isn’t the most important thing. If you have food on the table and a roof over your head, you’re doing better than a lot of people. Try to practice gratitude for what you do have, rather than fixating on what you don’t.

The Existentialist

The existentialist may worry about the world’s problems, or their country’s problems. This type of worrier may have thoughts like, what is my purpose? And, I’m just one person, there’s no way I can make a difference.

Perks: Existentialists are often big thinkers and ‘idea people.’ Those qualities come in handy in a lot of situations.

Pitfalls: Existential worriers can quickly fall victim to depression, instead of or in addition to anxiety.

My two cents: In order to be happy, people need to appreciate the little things in life, and that includes existentialists. Practicing gratitude can also be useful for these folks.

So, what type of worrier are you? Frankly, I can identify with all five, depending on the day and my mood.

-Rebecca

Where to?

How we talk ourselves out of saying no

…even when we really need to!

When you’re really used to saying yes to everything, it can be hard to say no… even one time!

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve been considering a request. You’ve been back and forth, back and forth in your mind. Maybe you want to say no, but the person keeps bugging you about it. Or maybe you’re just tired of thinking about it. Ultimately, you’re so sick of the whole thing that you give in to doing whatever it is.

Why is it so tough to say no?

There are many reasons why it can be tough to say no.

Saying yes may be your automatic response to a request, particularly if you’re a people pleaser, empath or helper. Old habits die hard.

Another reason why it’s hard to say no is actually our own thoughts! Weird as it sounds, we allow our thoughts to talk us out of saying no, over and over again.

In this post, we’ll review some tricky thoughts that are getting in your way of saying no. We’ll also look at how to talk back to those thoughts!

Tricky Thought #1: “They have no one else.”

There has to be someone else. A family member, a friend, a neighbor…

What did this person do before you were in their life? Surely they were able to resolve things another way.

If you’ve always been in this person’s life – say, you’re their mom – the best thing for this person may very well be to help themselves.

Even if they won’t be able to complete what they’re asking for help with as easily as you can. It’s important to allow people a chance to find out what they’re capable of.

Tricky Thought #2: “No one else can help them as well as I can.”

This is a tricky thought, indeed! It not only talks us out of saying “no,” it also boosts our ego in the process.

It’s nice feeling like we’re the best at something. It makes us feel special.

No one can help this person the way I can.

You may or may not be right about that, but it’s besides the point. The point is, the person in question can and will survive sub-par help for an afternoon, a day, a weekend…

Life is not perfect, and no one should expect to be helped ‘perfectly’ 24/7. I bet even you can’t make that happen. After all, you are a human being, not a robot!

Tricky Thought #3: “I don’t have a good reason to say no.”

I always assumed that if someone asked me to do something, and I was free at that time, that in order to stay aligned with my view of myself as a kind person, I had to do the thing.

IN. CORR. ECT.

You can absolutely say no to something, even if you have nothing else planned.

Needing time to take care of yourself or run errands is a good enough reason. For that matter, not wanting to do it is a good enough reason!

Tricky Thought #4: “If I say no, they won’t like me.”

If the only reason that people like you is because you do things for them, that’s a red flag.

A true friend, or a healthy family member, might be disappointed if you say no to something. You will disappoint people sometimes in life; it’s unavoidable. But they’ll still like you.

Trust that people appreciate you for who you are. You don’t have to ‘earn’ their friendship with help or kind acts.

What if the person making the request is my boss?

You should be able to say no to authority figures, too. Especially if they’re asking you to do something unreasonable, unethical, or that isn’t part of your job description.

If you don’t feel like you can say no to your boss without being punished or fired, that is really tough. For many people in the U.S. that is the case, particularly people of color and other marginalized folks.

Is doing what you’re asked worth losing your job over? If it violates your personal values, it might be. But I also know that it can be difficult to find another job, and you may need income to survive.

Only you can decide what is best for you.

If this blog post helped you, please scroll down and press the “like” button.

Have you said no to something recently? And if so, how did it go? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Yours in nay-saying,

Rebecca