The light fantastic or just a bit Sad? Our novelists try out four therapy lights
As cold winter nights approach, the exhort to hunker down under a warm duvet for as long as possible seems quite normal to me and likewise, a healthy craving for baked potatoes. But if you find yourself becoming persistently low in mood and lethargic towards winter each year, you may be somewhere on the Sad spectrum. The acronym for seasonal affective disorder reflects its nature: recurrent depressive illness with a seasonal pattern, usually worse in winter. While full-blown Sad can be a debilitating condition necessitating professional assist, the light therapy lamps that can be used to treat it are often marketed towards well people with mild symptoms. As a person who had lays down extra fat reserves like a bear around this time of year and is often snoozy in the mornings, I felt well qualified to exam one.
A Sad lamp sounds a bit like the naughty step a joyless place where you sit and think about what youve done. Still, I was hopeful that mine would be a beautiful object, smooth and luminescent like an aliens egg. I was let down by the unromantic appearance of the therapy lighting. The gray, clunky tablet looked like something you might detect suspended over an amateur cellar mushroom laboratory, or perhaps an unconvincing medical prop on a TV show.
The tablet emits a very bright, blue-white fluorescent lighting that delivers the optical equivalent of a freezing cold shower. The instructions recommend two hours of exposure every morning, held at six inches from the face. Perhaps part of its therapeutic consequence is this enforced period of complete immobility, or the flood of relief when you eventually stop waterboarding your eyes with photons. I used it at the more reasonable distance of 12 inches and squeezed in the two hours of light exposure in between other activities. It had no discernible consequence except for reducing my risk of napping to zero, which I appreciated.
A week into my one-woman trial, the tablet felt like an albatross in my life a dead, grey albatross. Even looking at it while it was switched off virtually brought on a migraine. Despite this, the ritual of using the lighting convinced me that its worth trying to mitigate the effects of colder, darker days. Rather than staring at a lightbox, Ill be getting outdoors whenever its bright and dry, and espousing celebrations, roaring flames, and feasts. Farrah Jarral
Lumie desklamp , 120
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