The days may be getting longer, but the dropping temperatures keep most of us indoors much of the winter, which can lead to seasonal affective disorder and depression.
Counseling and Psychological Services offers free light therapy treatment to students for combating depression during the winter months. Dr. Jeri Rockett, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said those who use the light therapy box 20 to 30 minutes daily often notice results in one to two weeks.
The therapy is simple. Students sit next to the light box in a small, comfortable office in the counseling center that houses a couch and a desk with a Mac computer. To be effective, the user doesn’t look directly into the light but sits close enough to the box so its light can reach their eyes indirectly. Users also can be active during their therapy: studying, knitting or any other activity that can be performed while seated.
Light therapy can help reset the biological time clock that affects mood by providing a full spectrum of light into the eyes. Rockett noted that many students associate their downcast change in mood at this time of year to the dropping temperatures, but the real culprit is the decrease in sunlight. “It disturbs our natural, circadian rhythm,” she said.
A 2005 research review commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association concluded that as little as 30 minutes of daily light therapy is as effective an antidepressant drugs in the treatment of SAD and other forms of depression.
SAD is a form of depression with symptoms that occur or increase during the winter months, usually decreasing or going into remission during the spring or summer. The disorder is more common in northern latitudes like Minnesota, most likely because people in these areas experience decreased daylight for months at a time.
Interested in trying light therapy? Call Counseling and Psychological Services, (651) 962-6780, to schedule a half-hour consultation with a counselor, or stop by their office, Room 356, Murray-Herrick Campus Center.