Avera Medical Minute: 'Happy light' fights against Seasonal Affective Disorder

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - This winter weather we've been experiencing can really make a lot of us feel down in the dumps.

For some that can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as "winter blues."

“I just experience a little bit more of a lack of focus or just a slightly lower energy level,” Hannah Entenman said. “I feel like for a lot of people it’s still pretty subtle where you still feel like you can be yourself. You know you're not totally down in the dumps or anything like that. It’s just a little bit of a drag. It’s just this tiny little subtlety that you feel like, maybe I feel a little more tired than I would have been.”

To help fight against those winter blues, Hannah tries to brighten her work day by taking Vitamin D pills, using citrus essential oils, keeping plants around and playing nature sounds.

“I do like birds chirping or a babbling brook and just getting those elements of the sunny outdoors, I think just brings that cheeriness,” Entenman said. “Basically I just try to recreate spring time a little bit right in my own little corner of the world.”

The biggest way Hannah does that is through a special light.

“Right when I get to work, I turn on my 'happy light,' which is a light therapy box and usually just take a couple moments, not very long, less than a minute, to kind of bask in it and get some of the benefits of that light,” Entenman said.

Her "happy light" is also know as a Seasonal Affective Disorder light or "SAD."

"It's like a great summer morning, when you step out and the sun rises, that's really what its comparable to," Paul Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh is the vice president for Home Medical Equipment in Sioux Falls.

He said people should sit under one of the lights with about 10,000 lux for 20 to 30 minutes a day.

"It's really directed at your eyes, not your skin," he said. "The eyes is what is triggering the brain to tell it 'okay, I need to release these hormones that make me happy,' in the sense, we're breaking it pretty simple on this, but it's that release of hormones. They are bright. They are going to let you know it's time to wake up and time to be going in the day time."

"Right away if feel like it's just an instant burst of energy, so just sitting there and letting the light hit my face, there's just something about it that's just an instant mood booster," Entenman said.

And if you are feeling a little down in the dumps, Hannah says...

"We call them seasons of change for a reason because they change, and so nothing lasts forever, and spring will come even if it doesn't feel like it right now," she said.

It is also important to talk with your doctor about how you might be feeling and to check your mental health.