Depression affects a huge number of people worldwide, whether you are referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or non-seasonal depression. SAD, which shows an increase in depression and fatigue during times of the year with less sunlight, affects an estimated 5% Americans. Non-seasonal depression affects an estimated 6.7% of the U.S. adult population.
Light therapy has become a common treatment option for SAD. Dr. Mercola writes,
“Scientists generally recommend full-spectrum light therapy over SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft for this condition, as it has virtually no side effects and is far less expensive than prescription drugs.”
Interestingly, though, Dr, Mercola continues,
“And, according to recent research, light therapy may be preferable even for major depression.
“The study set out to compare the effectiveness of light therapy, alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac).
“The eight-week-long trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:
- Light therapy (30 minutes per day upon waking using a 10,000 lux Carex brand Day-Light device, classic model) plus a placebo pill
- Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
- Light therapy plus Prozac
- Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)
“In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in close second, followed by placebo. That’s right, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, and LESS effective than placebo!”
Now, the light used in these studies is produced by a specific type of device, however, the intent of the use of the device is to replicate exposure to sunlight, which, in many cases can be directly experienced without being provided by an artificial device.
To clarify, take more walks outside during your lunch break or other opportunities during the day. This will expose you to more sunlight, and it will also provide your body with exercise, which is another proven method of improving a person’s mood. Dr. Mercola writes,
“Exercise primarily works [to battle depression] by helping to normalize your insulin levels while simultaneously boosting “feel good” hormones in your brain.”
We’re not suggesting that taking a daily walk during sunlight hours will immediately cure depression; however, it is very likely to have a positive impact on your mood level throughout the day and, if the levels of sunlight exposure and exercise are increased, could become a method of self-regulation available to nearly everyone.
In light of this, we recommend that you lace up your walking shoes.