Brighten Up Your Home to Combat SAD

Now that daylight savings time has ended for this year, the days are getting shorter, and the reduction in natural daylight makes many feel glum. For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the symptoms of depression are more acute at this time of year. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), there are some things homeowners can do to counteract the effects of SAD.

It’s clear that people need bright days and dark nights, a finding confirmed by a report by the Lighting Research Center in New York. Consumers might have seen “light boxes” promoted as a solution; however, using a light box is not a do-it-yourself project.

“It’s easy to use the light boxes improperly,” says Terry McGowan, director of engineering and technology for the ALA. “Light therapy – just like any other drug or treatment regimen – should be prescribed by a physician. Part of that ‘light prescription’ will involve how much light, when it’s to be provided, and for how long,” says McGowan.

McGowan’s research and concern about combatting the symptoms of depression are personal as well as professional. “My wife is affected by SAD,” he reveals. “We happen to live in northern Ohio, which has many cloudy days and weeks of gloomy weather during November and December. In the dining room and kitchen, the use of indirect lighting brightens the room on a gloomy day outside and supplements the daylight through skylights and large windows. At night, the indirect lighting is turned off, and a series of accent lights plus table and floor lamps are used to illuminate the task areas, table and artwork.”

There are some options regarding light bulbs that can help, in addition to natural light. Brian Creeley, director of residential sales for light bulb manufacturer Bulbrite, suggests switching out standard incandescent bulbs with versions that mimic the effects of “full spectrum lighting, leaving you with lighting that has the same effect that you get from sunlight.”

These specialty bulbs are readily available at ALA-member lighting stores.

If an existing home or condo does not have a lot of natural daylight, McGowan offers these tips for making rooms brighter and more cheerful:

•    Maximize any available morning daylight.
•    Use light colors for room surfaces.
•    Use high-reflectance white paint for the ceiling.
•    Incorporate an indirect light source into your room.
•    Use accent and spot lights to add bright accents on plants, decorations or feature areas, creating an effect similar to sunshine and shadows.

Homeowners should evaluate whether their home is properly illuminated during the winter months. A visit to a nearby ALA-member lighting showroom to consult with a professional will result in a personally tailored solution. For more information, visit

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