I have always said, and will continue to maintain, that summer is when I thrive the most. Longer days and warmer weather means more time outside, more events happening in the city, and more time with friends. Summer is when I am happiest!
You can find me at the beach, in the park, out for a run, riding my bike, enjoying coffee on a patio… anywhere the sun is, I’ll be there!
So, it’s no surprise that when the seasons shift and the days get shorter and the skies get cloudy, my mood shifts too. It feels like I miss out on some of my favorite things! Add in the fact that I live in Canada (and it can get quite cold in the winter months!) and I can become quite the recluse. Some people thrive in the winter! I am not one of those people… AT ALL. In the winter, I look forward to getting home, instantly putting on my pajamas and starting a Netflix marathon. Unfortunately, I also end up turning down plans because my energy is so low and I really just lose motivation to do a lot of things - even things I want to do.
For three years, I commuted an hour-and-a-half to work in the mornings, getting to the office before the sun rose, and commuted the same distance home, getting home when it’s dark. The only time I’d get to hang out with my good ol’ friend, the Sun, would be if I went on a walk over my lunch break if it wasn’t too cold out. Occasionally I could muster up the courage to layer up and head out on a run after work, but that didn’t fix the fact that the sun and I seemed like friends slowly drifting apart.
My second winter of commuting to work though, I noticed that my mood wasn’t the only thing that was affected - my productivity, my motivation, my focus were all out of whack. I had never thought I was affected by Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) or Winter Blues because I wasn’t depressed. Little did I know then, that depression isn’t the only symptom for SAD. I actually stumbled upon a graph that laid out the months in the year and when different symptoms may start to kick in for SAD and Winter Blues and I identified with so many of them! This was A THING! But did that mean I was depressed?! I quickly started searching symptoms for SAD, what it meant, what I should do about it...It was at this point that I promptly booked an appointment with my family doctor.
I had a really great and candid conversation with my doctor. We talked about how I was having trouble getting a good night's sleep, or when I did sleep well or for a long time, I still felt tired. We talked about how I had a hard time focusing at work and had no energy to do things I enjoyed like hanging out with my friends or checking out events that were of interest to me. I didn’t feel depressed, but didn’t feel like myself either. We ruled out SAD, but instead determined it was Winter Blues that I was experiencing. Right there in the doctor’s office, my doctor and I started looking at light therapy options. I didn’t understand how a light could help me feel more productive and more at home in my skin, but I was willing to try it!
I bought myself a Verilux HappyLight® and brought it into work to use everyday. At first all I thought was “dang, this is bright” and was self-conscious about this literal spotlight on me. I started with just using it for 15 minutes to adjust, and slowly worked up to about 30 minutes per day. Some days if I’m feeling particularly sluggish, I leave it on a bit longer. But adding it into my daily routine really helped! The sceptic in me was convinced. It set the tone for my day. Slowly, I realized it made me feel more awake and more alert. Come 11am, I wasn’t ready for a nap like I had been before. Slowly, I felt that my days were more productive and I was performing better at work. Even my coworkers started to say “ah, that’s nice” when I would turn my light on. Slowly, I started to feel more like myself.
One of my favorite side effects of using my HappyLight is actually the conversation it started amongst my colleagues. I had numerous people come up to me and ask what the bright light was, why I was using it, and what it did. The conversations were astounding. People said “I thought it was just me who felt that way in winter”, or “I didn’t realize I could do something about it”. Talking about mental health shouldn’t be taboo, so I’m so glad that using my HappyLight could open that conversation with folks. Now, when you walk down the halls in my office in the winter months, I see lots of people using light therapy to make their days a bit brighter!
While I still haven’t been converted to being a winter-lover, now I know that I have the tools and supports available to me to make the most out of winter when I want to while still enjoying my cozy time to recharge.
Morgan is a young professional working in the legal sector. She is an avid rock climber, runner, and dancer and enjoys dabbling in arts like calligraphy. Morgan has been using light therapy for over 2 years. You can follow her on Instagram @becoming.morgan