"There aint no cure for the summertime blues," goes the old song. I'm not sure if that's true, but the idea behind the lyric, I think, is that if the sunny skies and warm temperatures of summer can't banish the blues....well, it might be time to ask the doc about an antidepressant.
For the "wintertime blues," however - those endless dark days that maybe leave you feeling tired and grumpy, there may be a solution. Much attention has been focused in recent years on the phenomenon of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a disorder in which a lack of daily exposure to bright sunlight triggers chemical changes in the brain which lead to a deficit in serotonin, the so-called "feelgood" neurotransmitter.
Yet, despite attention by the medical community, and a growing consensus that SAD is a bonafide medical condition (see the Mayo Clinic's SAD page), very few people that I speak to about it take the idea very seriously. It is interesting to note that here in Bellingham, WA, which has one of the grimmest, darkest winter climes you'd ever care to live in, I have found that most large stores don't carry the light therapy devices, and more often than not, the clerks I speak with have never even heard of them ("Bed, Bath and Beyond" was the most recent example of that).
One might think that in this part of the world, entire shops would have sprung up around the concept. A friend of mine from Alaska has told me that these devices are practically a "common household appliance" up north. And in the Scandinavian countries, "light bars" have sprung up, where you go for coffee, or to read and study, while at the same time getting your daily dose of bright light.
Regardless of what people think or do, it is simply a fact that a very effective treatment for SAD is bright light. I don't mean, "light bulb bright." I mean, "10,000 lumens bright." A number of companies have sprung up on the web who manufacture these therapeutic devices (which tend to be a bit on the pricey side). It's beyond the scope of this blog to review them all for you. I can, however, send you in that general direction, and a good place to start is apollolight.com. I direct you there because I actually purchased an Apollo "Go-Lite" at Costco just a couple weeks ago. If you have a membership, or you know a friend who does, check it out before you buy it off the web - I got the Apollo Go-Lite premium model (P2) at Costco for $100 less than you can get it retail from the manufacturer on the web. This device has some additional features above and beyond the more inexpensive models, but the important thing is that they all emit high intensity light. The base model retails online at $179.
And let me tell you - from my experience in the last few weeks, it works. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I get pretty down in the mouth during the dark days of winter, and it's been getting worse each passing year. Last winter was so bad, in fact, that I resolved to give light therapy a go. And I haven't regretted it. My mood is so much more "up" and "optimistic" at this point, so much more like my "summer mood" - that it actually seems odd to feel so good, at this time of the year.
So good that I decided to start this Christmas blog.
If you suffer from the midwinter blues, you might consider trying out light therapy. It can give you your joy back.