We’ve heard about tropical parties in the winter, but have you ever heard of inviting people over to bask in your “Happy Light?”
Over the past few days, I’ve invited my neighbor Jim and friend Wendy to come over and sit next to my Verilux* “Happy Light,” which emits broad spectrum white light that mimics the sun. This is about the best I can do in late January in Connecticut, which still feels like the dark side of the moon.
Wendy asked if she should wear her bathing suit, but I reminded her that this is a therapeutic light – not a sun lamp like the one I used in the ’70s to tan before heading south every spring. That light is probably part of the reason I got skin cancer in my mid-40s, and still avoid the sun today.
My doctor prescribed the $40 light box that fights Seasonal Affective Disorder after I complained that I’ve been feeling tired and sluggish since the time change Nov. 1st. He said I should feel more energetic after using the light designed to increase energy, well-being, focus and relaxation. (For more on the Happy Light, visit https://verilux.com)
About the size of an I-pad, the $40 Happy Light sits on a table in my family room and is the first thing I turn on every morning. I can do other tasks like reading, watching TV or writing while it’s on. I don’t stare at the light, which is about 12 to 24 inches from my face. I just occasionally glance over at it as if to say, “Oh yes, I see you’re there. And I’m very happy that you are.”
Jim snagged his Happy Light invitation after he made the mistake of texting me: “Making it through this winter? It’s been mild but long.” He probably sees the glow of the light emanating from my family room every morning and is wondering what’s going on in here.
Wendy got her invite after a clutch of women discussed their problem with afternoon fatigue, and I mentioned my Happy Light. It seems unfair to keep it to myself.
I’ve never been a fan of winter and diminished light, but this year has been particularly tough for me. Like most things these days from flagging libido to crepey skin, I suspect I can chalk some of it up to age. As we get older, we secrete less of our “feel good” hormone serotonin and become more sensitive to cold. At the same time, we become more prone to Vitamin D deficiency.
Years ago, I remember my mother-in-law talking about diminished Vitamin B levels among her friends, hearing tales of them ponying up for mega-shots of Vitamin B12 shots to get more energy. Today, nearly everyone I talk to has a Vitamin D deficiency and takes daily supplements to bring it into normal range.
Vitamin D deficiency is rare in children because most drink plenty of milk and other fortified dairy products. But it’s considered a “worldwide epidemic” among adults, with an estimated 1 billion people suffering from insufficient levels across the globe.https://www.medicinenet.com/vitamin_d_deficiency/article.htm
In the United States, about 40 percent of the population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, which can cause everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to depression. Since Vitamin D plays a crucial role in immunity, low levels have also been linked to an increase in autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer.
The Happy Light is part of my doctor’s two-prong approach to fighting my winter blues. In addition to light therapy, I learned my Vitamin D level is woefully low and could be causing my seasonal lethargy and joint pain.
I had no idea my Vitamin D level was so low until I went to my doctor and complained about my joints. He suggested testing my Vitamin D level, noting many of his patients with arthritis had low Vitamin D levels and saw a marked improvement after taking supplements.
It should be noted that my Vitamin D level was not checked during a routine blood test for my annual physical. The doctor didn’t order the test until I mentioned achy joints. If you suspect your level is low or haven’t had it checked for awhile, you might ask your doctor for a blood test to check it.
I was prescribed 1.25 mg (50,000 units) of Vitamin D2 once a week to bring my Vitamin D level into the normal range. After that, I’ll take a 2,000 daily supplement to maintain a healthy level. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
I’ve only taken one Vitamin D supplement, so it’s way too early to tell if it’s going to be a game changer. But learning that my Vitamin D level was low was validating in a way: there was a viable reason for my sluggishness, which reared its ugly head most afternoons.
As for the Happy Light, I’m quite content sitting near it, and am always a little sad to turn it off. I’m a creature of the light, and nothing makes me happier than looking out and seeing a sunny day. But for now, the Happy Light will have to do. It’s not the sun, but it’s something. And right now, I’ll take what I can get.
*I have received no compensation from Verilux for this piece.