Ten days ago, we were all heartened that when the groundhog tumbled out of his cozy den and looked to the sky, no shadow scared him back into his hole, saving us from six more weeks of winter. However, here in the northeast, the legend doesn’t always live up to the reality, and many of us feel just like that groundhog from October to April.
In early January, I wrote about SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, and as the constant cold and snow seem to block our sun daily, I wanted to revisit the problem and offer solutions. A simple effective treatment that can be used in the workplace is Light Therapy. While many workplaces have become a cubicle landscape where direct day light is almost non-existent, high intensity lamps aimed at the employee will chase away the winter blues.
Light therapy has been proven effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases. Exposure, for up to four hours per day (average 1-2 hours) to very bright light, at least ten times the intensity of ordinary domestic lighting is the therapeutic dose. Ordinary light bulbs and fittings are not strong enough. Average domestic or office lighting emits an intensity of 200-500 lux but the minimum dose, necessary to treat SAD is 2500 lux, the intensity of a bright summer day can be 100,000 lux! Even changing a workplace setting to full spectrum lighting won’t do the trick.
Light boxes and lamps are easily available through the internet and with a prescription from a physician, an employee’s health insurance may cover the cost. A reasonable priced box with therapeutic levels of light would cost about $280. That’s a small price to pay for a happy and productive employee.
Light treatment should be used daily in winter (and dull periods in summer) starting in early autumn when the first symptoms appear. It consists of sitting two to three feet away from a specially designed light box, usually on a table, allowing the light to shine directly through the eyes. The employee can carry out normal activity such as reading, writing, eating and working at a computer while stationary in front of the box. It is not necessary to stare at the light although it has been proved safe.
Treatment is usually effective within three or four days and the effect continues provided it is used every day. Tinted lenses, or any device that blocks the light to the retina of the eye, should not be worn. Some light boxes emit higher intensity of light, up to 10,000 lux, which can cut treatment time down to half an hour a day.
Also daily exposure to as much natural daylight as possible, especially at midday may help. Encouraging employees to bundle up and get outside can be a great stress reliever, team builder and blues chaser.


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