What’s a happy light and why would you want one?

Full-spectrum light, table-top size

Are you tired of the gray days already?

The best would be to step outside and bask in the morning light first thing. But not everyone has time for that and here in winter, we have so many gray days that it’s hard to get enough light.

From about October until March, I have a lot of conversations in the clinic about happy lights.

As soon as the fall time change comes around, I get my happy light out of the closet and put it on my desk at home next to where I do my morning stretches.

How about you – do you know what they are? Have you used one?

What’s a happy light

A happy light is the casual name for a full-spectrum light you sit in front of for a little while each day. It more closely mimics natural sunlight than our typical indoor incandescent, LED, or fluorescent lights can do.

Why use a happy light

How do you feel when we have a whole week of gray days and then suddenly a bright, sunny day? Can you picture feeling a little brighter, lighter, a spring in your step?

That’s what the full-spectrum of light can do for us.

It can help to lift the mood, especially when prone to seasonal moods.
It can help to normalize our circadian rhythm (melatonin kicks in a certain number of hours after use).
It can help sleep, even though you use it in the morning.

How to use a happy light

Pick a spot where you tend to spend some time in the morning, e.g. kitchen counter when preparing breakfast, kitchen table where you eat breakfast or drink coffee, bathroom counter as you’re getting ready, or desk or table by where you work or work out.

Full-spectrum light, table-top size

Here’s a picture of mine…

Turn it on for 5 to 20 minutes. (No longer than 30 minutes.)

Position it so that the light is within your sightline (not behind you). The light has to meet your retinas but do NOT look directly into it.

Use it ONLY in the morning. (Your “morning” – if you work at night, use it before you go to work.)

The light triggers a whole cascade of events that tell your body when to release natural melatonin. If you use it in the afternoon or evening, you might mess up your sleep schedule.

Where to get a happy light

I got mine on Amazon but you’ll see it elsewhere too, so feel free to shop around. Just type “happy light” in the search. The most popular brand is Verilux.

The shapes change frequently. This link is the closest design to the one I use.

Look for one that has 10,000 lux (this is the measurement of light intensity) and has a low and a high setting.

How to use a happy light safely

Like the sun, don’t look directly at it.

If it’s too intense, start with fewer minutes or the lower setting.

Don’t assume more is better. You can get a boost with only a few minute use.

Don’t use it as your reading/working light. It is meant for short-time use.

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, use caution and please ask your doctor first if it’s recommended for you. It is generally not recommended when in a manic or hypomanic state. It can help with a depressive state but you may want to start at the lower setting for about five minutes at first to see how you do.

Light therapy is NOT recommended if you have any retinal disorders of the eye, or if you are on photosensitizing medications.

Need more help?

If your happy light is not doing enough to help in the winter, click here to schedule an acupuncture appointment.

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.   See my disclaimer.

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