In countries of high latitude where there are extended periods of low natural light during the winter months, it is common for people to become depressed—a condition referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. There is a good reason why this occurs.
The part of your brain responsible for your emotions (how you feel) is sensitive to how much light hits your retinas at the back of your eyes. It associates bright light with daytime and hence revs you up, and low light with evening and so slows you down.
It perhaps is not surprising therefore that “light therapy,” involving exposing people’s eyes to bright light, is used as a treatment for depression. In fact, a recent study found that light therapy was more effective at relieving depression than antidepressant medications!
Importantly, light therapy doesn’t involve burning out your retinas by staring into the sun—your eyes just need to be “immersed” in a well-lit area. The sun does, however, seem to be the best source of rejuvenating light. Researchers have also discovered that morning light seems to be especially good for lifting our mood.
Not spending enough time in naturally lit environments can take a toll on your mood. So try getting outside in the sun more often, especially during the morning hours. Brighten your mood and live more!
Published in Signs of the Times 1 March 2016 Volume 131 No 3