Monday, August 25, 2008

Light therapy for depression

(Guest post by Tim Desmond who hosts a website offering phone counseling and information on treating depression.)

Light therapy (also called phototherapy) has been studied as a treatment for seasonal depression for more than 20 years. More recently it has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for nonseasonal depressional as well. Several studies have shown lightboxes can achieve significant relief from depression more than four times faster than medication. It is estimated that a significant percentage of people in the US suffer from light deficiency. Symptoms of light deficiency include depression, lack of motivation, lack of energy and carbohydrate craving.

What kind of light to use

Both natural sunlight and commercial lightboxes have been shown to treat depression effectively. While there is some evidence that exposure to light in the early morning is most effective, other studies suggest that different people respond best to getting light at different times of day. Average exposure time in most studies to a 10,000 lux lightbox (lux is a unit of brightness) was thirty minutes. If choosing to use sunlight, thirty minutes on a clear day at midday is ideal. Commercial lightboxes and the sun can both produce vitamin D, which is believed to play an important role in causing and treating depression. However, the sun can only do so when it is high enough in the sky for UVB rays to penetrate the atmosphere. Depending on your latitude, the sun may only be high enough in the sky to be able to produce vitamin D for a few hours around midday.

Whether you choose natural sunlight or a lightbox, it is very important that you do not use any sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks your body's ability to produce vitamin D. If you believe your depression might be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, you should also take a vitamin D supplement.

Click here for an ideal lightbox.


The Pursuit of Happiness said...

Welcome to the blog, Tim!

Very interesting. I've known people that craved light; one friend used to lie on the bar in her kitchen under three big lights in winter time. I always thought that this was just an emotional thing. I had no idea there were more concrete reasons for it.

Mind Body Shop said...

Nice info

Christa said...

Light boxes are a great ideas but I also recommend getting outside, even if it is a bit cold and it isn't mid-day to expose yourself to some sun, get fresh air and experience nature (even if it is in the form of an icycle). Nature does wonders for one's mental health.

I'm not preachin' mind ya, just speaking from experience.

I'm headed out to the dog park now to enjoy the goodness and greenery!

Blessings and Giggles to all of you!

Christa @

Anonymous said...


My name is Justin Guild and I’m a graduate research assistant currently working with Dr. Jeong-Nam Kim ( at Purdue University on a health communication study.

Specifically, our research explores how information sharing behavior through online communities influences coping strategies among people with chronic conditions including cancer, diabetes, depression, etc.

I’m contacting you to seek permission to place a link to our online web survey on your blog to invite readers and other visitors to participate. The survey is purely academic in nature and takes no longer than 5-7 minutes to complete.

The web survey can be found by clicking on this link:

In the survey, we use the term “blog” to refer to any online activity where you might read or share information in communities such as personal web logs, internet forums, and discussion boards.

The findings of this study could lead to better management capacities of chronic diseases as well as an increase in funding for research related to online communities.

If you have any questions, or would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Justin Guild

merri ellen of depression writings said...

You are right on. Simply reading the medical journals reveals that light therapy is one of the most effective treatments for depression.