• Jenna Wonish-Mottin

My Happy Light for Depression

Updated: May 24

At the end of last year I was given a small bright lamp. I thought it may be helpful as I continuously try to improve my lighting for the online video therapy sessions I conduct. It was small, basic, and fit well with my décor. It could also sit right next to me on my desk. Unfortunately this lamp was too bright to stare into for hours each day even though it has multiple brightness settings and I often wear blue light blocking glasses 👓 so I decided to move the lamp and use it for when I feel inspired to read from my growing pile of unread my therapy books I am excited yet unmotivated to pick up.

I noticed I liked the bright light it have off, especially when it was near by but not directly in my face. I looked into a little more and discovered it was a Happy Light. These are also called SAD lights, SAD lamps, and light boxes, because they are often used for seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when a person feels depressed during the winter or times when there is less sunlight. A person may also feel more depressed when they do not get as much sunlight because they do not get outdoors often during the day, which happens more often when the days are shorter or for people who work night shift. This depression due to lack of sunlight could be related to a lack of vitamin D, as well as other factors that can increase stress and depressed feelings, such as social isolation, fatigue, schedule changes, staying indoors more than desired, biological changes, among other things. Many different things can increase the chance of having a depressive episode. While the lamps do not provide vitamin D in the light they shine, they can help your body naturally produce more vitamin D.

Even if you are not diagnosed with SAD or a depression disorder, you may find a Happy Light helpful. For the past year, we all have been stuck inside more than we would like. It has been a long, cold winter with shorter days. Happy lamps have been researched to improve mood with just occasional use. They have even been shown to help reduce anxiety. You can use one at home or at your desk at work. Happy lights shine bright light that is similar to outdoor natural light. It can brighten your mood just by making it feel like you brought a bright sunny day into the room. They work best when you place one close but not too close from you, about 6 to 24 inches away from you. You can use it for about 20 minutes up to 2 hours each day. Many people like to use them in the morning when they get up or first get to work. I did not like placing my happy lamp right in front of my face, however you do want the light to enter your eyes. It may feel best to place it in a slightly elevated position above you to mimic the natural angle you get from sunlight. If you are like me, you can close your eyes and pretend you are laying out on the beach under the warm sun, maybe even try some beach themed guided imagery for relaxation.

So if you have been feeling down lately and not getting outside as much as you would like, a light box could be beneficial to you. Let your light shine.

A light box can certainly be helpful for improving your mood, especially if you are not getting enough sunlight or have SAD. It might not be the only thing you want to try though. If you need help alleviating symptoms of depression, contact a licensed therapist (like me) to help you manage your depression.

If you (or your child or teen) are interested in online counseling and live in Missouri or Texas, you can check out the rest of my website at and click on Contact Me for more information about starting online therapy. If you want individual support to overcome your feelings of depression request a free 15 minute phone consultation with me. Not in Texas or Missouri? There are therapists in every state. I may be able to help point you in the right direction for finding a therapist who is the right fit for you.

Have no clue what a Happy Lamp looks like? Check out the photo of mine below. This one was affordable and came from Amazon, however there are a variety of them to choose from.

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