By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression is depressive symptoms or mood instability that occurs on a seasonal basis, most commonly during winter months.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, increased appetite, oversleeping (1).

Treatment includes medications, counseling, lifestyle habits, and counseling.

What are some lifestyle habits that can help with Seasonal affective disorder?

  • Sleep hygiene
  • Aerobic exercise upto 1 hour, 2-3 times per week (2)
  • Daily walks outside upto an hour (3).
  • Light therapy (1).

With technological advances, many light boxes are now available at a more affordable cost.  It is recommended that you discuss with your health care professional to see if light therapy is right for you.

For proper use of light therapy, The Mayo clinic advises the following (4):

  • It’s best to talk with your health care provider about choosing and using a light therapy box.
  • If you’re experiencing both SAD and bipolar disorder, the advisability and timing of using a light box should be carefully reviewed with your doctor.
  • Increasing exposure too fast or using the light box for too long each time may induce manic symptoms if you have bipolar disorder.
  • If you have past or current eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or eye damage from diabetes, get advice from your eye doctor before starting light therapy.
  • Generally, the light box should:
    • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
    • Emit as little UV light as possible
  • Typical recommendations include using the light box:
  • Regarding timing, use within the first hour of waking up:
    • For about 20 to 30 minutes
    • At a distance of about 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimeters) from the face
    • With eyes open, but not looking directly at the light

Additional information can be found here:

Additional thoughts:

  • Daily use is most likely to produce benefit.
  • Some may need to use it daily for a few weeks before having a noticeable benefit.
  • Some people may benefit from using light therapy starting out at 30 minutes and working your way up to 1 hour per day.
  • More information on seasonal affective disorder click here.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  2. Partonen T, Leppämäki S, Hurme J, Lönnqvist J. Randomized trial of physical exercise alone or combined with bright light on mood and health-related quality of life. Psychol Med 1998; 28:1359.
  3. Wirz-Justice A, Graw P, Kräuchi K, et al. ‘Natural’ light treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 1996; 37:109.

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Posted by R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU CCS Psychiatrist at 9:54amPosted in Seasonal Affective disorder Tagged how to use a light boxhow to use light therapylight therapy for seasonal depressionnon medication treatment of seasonal depressionseasonal affective disorder treatmenttreating winter blueswinter blues

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