Affordable Solutions to Your Seasonal Affective Disorder with Light Boxes

by Debra Karplus

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Whether you live in a cold part of the country with long winters such as St. Paul, Minnesota, or a warmer place with many cloudy days, such as Seattle, you could be a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD. The Mayo Clinic and other reputable medical experts recognize SAD as a real disorder. It's sometimes referred to as the winter blues and not unlike clinical depression, which is related to a chemical problem in the body related to lack of outdoor light. With fewer hours of daylight in winter months, especially December in the Northern Hemisphere, SAD is a very common malady to be taken seriously if you want to live life to its fullest.

If you think you might have SAD, you may want to mention it to your physician at your next annual checkup. Your regular doctor might recommend medication or even psychotherapy, but sometimes a good first step in tackling SAD is known as light therapy. It's a simple and relatively affordable way to try to rid yourself of the blues that creep into your psyche each year.

An extended vacation to some of America's sunniest places such as Florida or Southern California are not options for most people, but a light box might be just what you need to get through the dark and gloomy season in your part of the country. Light therapy boxes or simply light boxes can be purchased online or at stores in your community, such as Walgreens. Doctors suggest that about 30 minutes each morning in front of a light box approximately two feet in front of you should help get you back to a cheerier disposition.

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Start by asking your physician for recommendations of an appropriate light therapy box. Typically, light therapy boxes are not covered by any insurance plan, but are generally affordable. Some sell for as little as $40. Fancier ones can cost up to $200. Before purchasing any light box, you want to make certain it is designed specifically for treating seasonal affective disorder and not to treat skin disorders or to grow garden plants. And do note that light therapy boxes are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Light boxes vary in intensity, safety, cost, and style. You definitely want to read online customer reviews to see which ones receive accolades. Boxes with lights of greater intensity typically require less time in front of them to perform their magic.

For do-it-yourselfers, you can search on or or some other websites for ideas and instructions to build your own light therapy box using white light, not blue, and an inexpensive frame or box that you can build or sometimes even find.

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Do acknowledge your own seasonal affective disorder if you have it. With your physician's approval, experiment with light therapy and allow yourself to be the best and cheeriest that you can be because life is simply too short to squander.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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