When I first moved to the UK 5 years in the past from my native New Zealand, it wasn’t the damp local weather or the completely different accents and even that Christmas befell throughout chilly climate that was the tradition shock, slightly it was that England seemed to be darkish for half of yearly.
Winter within the UK, I shortly found, particularly after you get previous the festivities of December and the odd snowy day, is…slightly bleak. Even earlier than the pandemic, I’d spend January and February in hibernation, opting to depart the home as little as attainable whereas pondering wistfully about how my household and associates on the opposite facet of the world can be river swimming and having fun with laid-back weekend barbecues within the solar.
Last winter all of it got here to a head. Working from residence, gone have been the massive light-filled home windows of the workplace and instead got here a stand-off between me and my boyfriend: Me, drawing the blinds broad open at each alternative, and him closing them as a result of “glare” on his pc display. Unfortunately for us, in a poky one-bedroom flat in London, there wasn’t wherever else both of us might go.
I tried every part and something to get that pure mild repair – I’d spend my lunch break strolling round my native park, I moved my WFH arrange even nearer to the window and on weekends, when the solar was shining, I spent as a lot time outdoors as I might – even when the chilly felt prefer it was about to freeze my nostril off.
Whatever I tried, I discovered that the lengthy stretches of gray days the place sunshine is few and much between added one other stage to the distress of the pandemic – my each day stroll ended up feeling extra like punishment than an pleasant break, main me to change up weekend wanders for extra time indoors to flee the dreariness of the native park.
I’m not alone in noticing a temper shift in the course of the winter months. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often known as “winter depression” or the “winter blues”, is assumed to have an effect on round two million folks within the UK. It can have an effect on anybody, together with youngsters, and the NHS says signs embrace a persistent low temper, a loss of pleasure or curiosity in on a regular basis actions, emotions of despair and feeling torpid.
And whereas not all of the signs the NHS lists apply to me personally, I do undoubtedly discover a vital temper shift within the winter months. So, this yr, I was decided to make a change. To deal with SAD, the NHS recommends every part from exercising usually to taking in as a lot pure daylight as attainable. I began doing Youtube dance HIIT exercises within the morning within the hope that squatting to Olivia Rodrigo would assist perk me up for the day forward. In equity, it did a bit, however I was struggling to totally get my power again.
Another widespread technique of treating low temper in the course of the winter months is mild remedy, the place a particular lamp (often known as a SAD lamp) is used to simulate publicity to daylight.
Counselling Directory member and psychotherapist Rocana Bray explains that, whereas the trigger of SAD isn’t “completely understood” it’s “commonly recognised that during the winter months the hypothalamus part of the brain may not work as effectively in some people, as we are exposed to less daylight and vitamin D intake is lower”.
“When the hypothalamus is not working as effectively, this often impacts the individual’s levels of serotonin; commonly known as a ‘happy hormone’ in your body,” she says. “As levels of serotonin are lower, this can in turn affect your mood and sleep and you may have feelings of depression.”
The change of mild in winter additionally impacts the physique’s circadian rhythm, explains Dr Bray. “This is the body’s internal clock – so you may notice you are feeling more sluggish and less motivated when it’s time to get out of bed and this can sometimes go on throughout the day. In addition, melatonin, which is the sleepy hormone, may go into overdrive, which can contribute to that sluggish feeling.”
This is the place SAD lamps are available in. Shown to be efficient in serving to fight the milder signs of SAD in some sufferers, a SAD lamp can mimic the impact of the solar rising and setting and “positively impact the body’s regulation of melatonin and serotonin to help you feel more energised during the day,” Bray explains.
If you do wish to use a SAD lamp, it’s really helpful you do so each day all through the winter months and make sure the lamp you choose is appropriate for remedy use – this isn’t about staring into an uncovered lightbulb. So, after 5 winters within the UK, every of them spent dosing up on vitamin D tablets and mumbling to myself that maybe I ought to get a SAD lamp, this yr my boyfriend determined sufficient’s sufficient.
After the winter gone battling over blinds, he acquired me a SAD lamp for my September birthday. He picked the Gemoor lamp, which clocks in on the cheap value level of £39.99, good for novice SAD lamp-ers like me. The Gemoor has a slick design – it’s smaller than an A4 sheet of paper however larger than your common pill – and it’s UV-free in addition to providing adjustable brightness.
I waited till October, when the darkness started creeping in, earlier than bringing it out on a significantly grim day. I’m instructed by Dr Bray that I ought to place the lamp no nearer than 16 inches from my face and that my eyes needs to be “open, but not looking directly at the light”. Sounds easy sufficient.
But having 10,000 Lux mild blaring at my face shouldn’t be, it seems, the stress-free begin to the day I’d anticipated. Suddenly I really feel like I’m in an interrogation room and my left eye twitches a little within the glare. I resolve to ease myself in and switch it all the way down to the bottom setting.
As you’re solely meant to make use of it for as much as an hour a day – and my lamp provides you the choice of setting a 15-, 30-, 45- and 60-minute timer, I set it to half-hour for my first few classes.
This grew to become my go-to time restrict for the primary week of use, earlier than I bumped it as much as 45-minutes. Now I’m sitting across the 60-minute mark and have even turned up the brightness a notch.
The lamp is positioned on my WFH “desk” (really the eating desk) and, one month in, I’m into a bit of a routine. On sunnier days, I resolve to make use of the lamp within the mornings when it’s nonetheless a bit darkish outdoors and on gray days, I’ve switched it on within the afternoon for a focus enhance. As we edge deeper into autumn, I think about I’ll start utilizing it someday between 3pm and 5pm, to present my mind that much-needed dose of mild within the hours the place I’ll be noticing the dearth of it essentially the most.
It took a whereas to note something and, whereas half of me was anticipating a dramatic transformation in my temper, utilizing a SAD lamp hasn’t routinely made me sunnier. Yet, I have seen a gradual shift over the previous couple of weeks. My power ranges are larger and, because the lamp has grow to be half of my each day routine, I’m noticing that having it on has helped improve my focus, made me really feel extra alert and I’ve discovered that I’m sleeping higher, too.
As effectively as the brilliant white mild, the Gemoor has the choice to change to an orange-based mild, which I’ve discovered works higher for me within the mornings as it’s a softer tone. The white mild is healthier within the afternoon, when the solar can be at its peak in the course of the summer season, because it provides me that additional enhance when the 3pm lull hits.
While it might not be the be-all and end-all treatment for the winter blues (and it definitely doesn’t examine with swimming in a river in New Zealand), utilizing a SAD lamp has introduced a bit of pep again into my step and brought the sting off the bleakness of winter – and that’s a ok end result for me.
Want to check out one for your self? We’ve rounded up our favorite SAD lamps on IndyBest.