Winter blues, Seasonal affective disorder and happy lights

I had a hard time picking a title for this blog post

Lots of people have the winter blues and/or actual diagnosed Seasonal affective disorder that starts around this time of year…  some postulate that decreased amounts of sunlight exposure per day is the culprit.

Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

If this sound familiar please talk to your doctor.  Once you have done that and gotten some help and if you are still looking for more help please read on!

One thing that may help is using a very bright light that simulates daylight coming at you indirectly for 30-60 minutes per day while you are doing something else. You know, like typing a blog article.

I blogged a bit about this last year and recommended a light that some of my patients have gotten from a company called Northern Lights.

Here is the link to my previous article for fun:

The patients that have gotten this one, and my awesome friend and chiropractor extraordinaire Emily who also uses it ,  love this brand. (Yes, I guess lots of my friends are chiropractors… school and life and stuff is where I met them).

One draw back – the price tag…  the desk version cost around $200

Good news!

So fall year I was at Costco and what do I see?  I giant pile of a product called “Happy Light” retailing for about $60.00

Cool, I thought and then walked by.

About a week later I felt kinda blah and down.  It had been really grey outside and I thought to myself (for about the 250th time) that I should buy a light for my desk for the winter blues… maybe it would help.

Off to Costco I went.   I couldn’t find the stupid happy light anywhere.  You know how Costco is,  if you don’t buy it when you see it you may never get it again.  Luckily after much searching,  I did find several in the pharmacy.

Consumer report of one

I decided to buy it to test it on me and do a consumer report of one so that I could advise patients (and all of you) to buy it if it works.   If we can help the winter blues for $60 why not?

One of the reasons I sent people to the Northern Lights site was because a family doctor that Emily knows referred her to it originally having said that the wavelengths used in those lights are the ones that help the most.

I did some research.  Apparently it is not agreed upon in the scientific community which light wavelengths are the most helpful.  It should just be a strong white light. Preferably with no harmful UV.

The Happy Light checks both boxes.

How I did with it

I got it back to my clinic and set it up immediately.

Put it around 18 inches away and turned it on to the strong setting.

Had a headache in 3 minutes.

Turned it off.

Headache gone shortly after.

Turned it on to low setting (for afternoon use apparently).

Headache in 5 minutes.


Hmmmm maybe the other light would be better?


Put it farther away from me on the desk – about 2 feet and angled it more away from my eyes.

Turned it on.

ok after 5 mintues but decided to build on it…


I am happy to report that with it about 2 feet away and angled on low I can have it on with no irritation or bother for 30 minutes.  AND I think my mood is better in general.

So I think this one has Costco for the win.  I do recommend it.

I also recommend reading the instructions in the box (which I did not do) and doing the test on yourself for light sensitivity (which apparently I may be so the reading of the instructions would probably have been helpful).

Hope this is helpful!

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