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Shorter Days: Shed Light on Depression

So Autumn is here; the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Soon enough the shortest day of the year will be upon us, so every drop of winter sunshine is liquid gold to us.

A bright sunny winter’s day can put a spring in our steps and a smile on our faces, no matter how cold, but of course, it can affect our moods at a deeper level too.

Depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

A lack of light exposure has been linked to Depression. The Irish combination of dull winter weather and the latitude of the island, leads to a lack of light during the winter months which can be a problem for many Irish depression sufferers during this period.

What steps can you take

There are steps we can take at this time of year to help ensure we do get enough light and to help lower our depression risk.

  • It’s important for your brain to register light in the morning – so make sure your bedroom fills with light as the sun rises, no blackout blinds! Hospital stays for depression patients have been found to be three days shorter for those whose windows face the rising sun.
  • Get out in the light every day if you can, walk to the shops or to work and get outside for your lunch break.
  • Try to get a work area that faces the morning or daytime sun, whether at home or in the workplace. Alternatively use a bright light desk lamp.
  • Have your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor, low levels are a marker for insufficient sunlight.
  • Put bright full spectrum bulbs in your overhead lighting at home and use it in the mornings. (Do not use these lights in the evenings – switch to muted low level table lamps instead).
  • Don’t wear sunglasses (unless required for safety reasons). Sunglasses, particularly those with yellow lenses, reduce the light intensity reaching the eyes.
  • For Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes known as winter depression, consider doing light therapy every morning from October through to March, although depression sufferers can try it any time of the year, as recommended by the American Psychiatric Association. Make sure you get good advice on buying and using the equipment. It is also now possible to rent light boxes in Ireland.
  • Emerging technologies now offer a variety of solutions to help get yourself back on track through a host of different tools e.g. diaries, trackers etc.
  • Exposure to blue light during winter months is easy when you have a smartphone or tablet.  Simply download an anti-SAD app and position your device as directed.  

 

So remember,  if you struggle with depression or SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder, always try to let as much light as you can into your environment during the day.

To quote Martin Luther King,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that…”

For more information and practical tips and advice about Depression and Low Mood, you may also be interested in our short video on understanding Depression or our free to download Self Help Guide on Depression & Low Mood