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The short days and long nights of fall and winter can trigger feelings of depression, lethargy, fatigue and other problems. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression. It’s also frequently referred to as the winter blues.
Because it’s a type of depression, there are a few basic foundational strategies and choices you can make that will greatly help release you from its grip, independent of other strategies that are helpful to prevent and/or treat SAD specifically.
Antidepressant drugs will never resolve the underlying problems causing your depression, or SAD. They can, however, cause serious, including fatal side effects. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the most over- and mis-prescribed drugs on the market.
General Strategies to Prevent and Heal Depression
Three strategies that are essential any time you’re dealing with any type of depression are:
Specific Strategies for Preventing and Treating SAD
For the prevention and treatment of seasonal affective disorder, specifically, an adequate amount of sunshine is essential. Because increased sunlight improves symptoms, light therapy is often a main treatment for many people with SAD.
Naturally, the ideal option would be to relocate to a tropical or subtropical environment during fall and winter months, but this is unfortunately not a viable option for most of us. Your second best option is to use high quality artificial lighting to ease your symptoms.
The vast majority of people use inexpensive and highly inefficient incandescent lighting in their homes. This, however, is NOT a high quality light, and is not recommended, especially if you suffer from the winter blues.
Ideally, you’ll want to use only high quality full spectrum light bulbs in your home and office.
In my experience, patients tend to feel a profound increase in energy and improvement in mood and sense of well-being within two to three days after exposure to full-spectrum lighting.
This is the type of lighting that I have installed in my home and in my office.
There’s some confusion on this issue, but currently, full spectrum light bulbs are fluorescent bulbs. There are some LED’s available – and in time they will likely become the standard – but at the present time full spectrum LED’s are out of price range for most people.
Addressing the Safety Concerns About Full Spectrum Fluorescent Bulbs
There are some perceived problems with fluorescent full spectrum light bulbs, as they do contain a small amount of mercury, and they do emit small amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMF).
Mercury is highly toxic, and clearly something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. But the full spectrum bulbs are completely harmless as long as they are not broken. Common sense would dictate that you’ll want to install and uninstall them in a safe manner to avoid an accident.
Additionally, although they contain mercury, and may end up in a landfill if not disposed of properly, the environmental impact of mercury is clearly LESSENED by the use of these bulbs as they use FAR less electricity. Incandescent light bulbs are extreme energy hogs, using about 3,600 KWh over 60,000 hours worth of use, compared to 840 KWh for a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL).
This reduces the amount of coal burning being done to create electricity, which is the biggest source of mercury pollution in the United States, releasing some 104 metric tons of mercury into the environment each year.
For comparison, according to EnergyStar calculations, if ALL 290 million CFL light bulbs sold during 2007 were broken and sent to a landfill instead of being recycled, they would release a mere 0.13 metric tons of mercury into the environment.
If you did not fall of your chair, please reread the last paragraph again. I can’t tell you how annoyed I get when people complain about my promotion of high quality compact fluorescent bulbs. They just fail to see the big picture. There would be a nearly 1,000-fold reduction in total mercury burden if we switched to these bulbs ASAP.
Over 100 tons of mercury every year would NOT be released into the environment. So, are there better solutions like the LED? Yes, but at this time virtually no one can afford them as they typically cost about ten times as much as the compact fluorescents. This will change in the future, but in the meantime we can eliminate hundreds of tons of mercury EVERY year if we immediately switched to these bulbs.
For much more detailed information on this subject, please review my previous article where I delve into the mercury issue of these bulbs in greater detail.
Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs also generate small amounts of electromagnetic fields, however these EMFs dissipate, much like the EMF from cell phones, within a few feet.
Essentially, my recommendation for “safe lamp use” would be the same as that for cell phones: use the speaker phone or an air tube headset, and keep your cell phone as far away from your body as possible. As long as you’re not sitting with a light bulb directly by your head, the risk to your health from these EMFs will be minimal to non-existent.