A small source of light has become a huge source of comfort for people living with mental health issues. 
What started as a simple box with different colored lights, almost comparable to a night light, has turned into an effective, short-term solution for panic attacks, depression and other forms of mental distress.
The point of the light is to project colors that soothe the mind. Sunlight is a crucial ingredient to a healthy lifestyle, so some lights come with a white light that can mimic sunlight for those who don’t get enough on a daily basis. Others are equipped with lights that come in a rainbow of colors, like blue to promote rest and calm or red to promote high energy and power. 
Each color of the light is unique based on whatever issue it’s purchased for. Some people buy the lights to help with seasonal depression, sleep disorders, light deprivation, jet lag, anxiety attacks and plenty of other symptoms. 
Using a light to help with mental illness is a type of therapy called light therapy. Light Therapy provides full spectrum light without harmful UV rays from the sun, or for those who can’t get outdoors where natural light is available.  It gives the body signals to help with relaxation, focus and revitalization.
It works through our brain’s chemistry and body-clock, which are both affected by light. Light stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters that influence our overall feelings of well-being. Being exposed to bright lights during the day stimulates the body’s production of serotonin, a hormone used to improve mood and happiness. It also regulates melatonin in the evening, a hormone that helps promote sleep.
Several companies have monetized the idea of light therapy, including HappyLight, Carex and Circadian Optics, which all focus on the sunlight projection; Philips SmartSleep and Wake-Up light, which simulates sunrises and sunsets through different shades of sunlight; and BIOPTRON, which focuses on using various colors of lights to instill various moods. 
Typically the lights range anywhere from $20 to over $100. Though some of the higher priced ones can prove to be a solid investment, they’re affordable at lower prices as well. The lights also come in a plethora of shapes and sizes, including ones in the form of alarm clocks, portable ones that are smaller and easier to travel with and bigger ones around the size of a typical laptop.
One of the biggest uses for light therapy is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that’s related to the changes in seasons. Though SAD is different for everyone, it typically begins in the fall and continues into the winter months, soaking up a person’s energy and bringing out moodiness. The number one treatment for SAD is light therapy. 
Gretchen Leu, a licensed professional clinical counselor, certified EMDR therapist, EMDR approved consultant and facilitator and certified yoga instructor, is the owner of a clinical wellness center in Perrysburg, Ohio called Karuna House. For 20 years, Leu has helped her patients heal and work through psychological pain through the motto “falling forward,” meaning that struggle, failure, passion and perseverance are necessary to realize people’s fullest potential. 
Leu, as well as other therapists from Karuna House, has had experience in helping her clients discover the benefits of light therapy.
“Typically these lights are for individuals who suffer from SAD, but you don’t even have to have SAD to benefit from using them,” Leu said. “If you live in a climate where there’s little sun for a long period of time, we definitely recommend them.”
Leu describes a HappyLight as just that, a happy light, like a sunny day. Sun filled days bring better breathing, clearer thinking, more vibrant emotions and less fatigue. Though there are scientific explanations as to how the lights work, Leu is more interested in if they work for her specific clients. She inspires her clients to ask themselves if it works for them. Rather than focusing on how it works scientifically, she focuses on how it feels for each client, and that’s the measure of how effective the product is.
Not only has Leu recommended these lights to her clients, but she has also used them on herself. However, a common misconception about the product is that the lights can be used once and completely change a person’s mental health. Leu makes sure people know the product has a cumulative effect. 
“You use it once, chances are you won’t feel anything,” Leu said. “But it has a cumulative effect: the repeated, intentional use of it every day is what makes a difference.”
Though the lights are typically recommended as a solution for those with mental health, they can be integrated in everyday life as a way to simply improve the body’s natural clock. Either way, the product has proved to be life changing for people.
For Katie Wyckoff, a sophomore studying sports management, light therapy was the perfect solution to her severe panic attacks.
“They really used to soothe me and calm me down,” Wyckoff said. 
Wyckoff was struggling with her mental health when she decided to move home for a semester and attend Ohio University through a regional campus location. After seeing an ad for one of the brands of the soothing lights, she bought one to see if it could ease her panic attacks. 
“When going through something like a panic attack, the light was a very effective method,” Wyckoff said.
The blue light worked best for her, as it promotes rest and calm. She would use the blue light to fall asleep, and the mimicking sunlight setting during the day. Wyckoff loves how the lights are multipurpose and can work for a number of different mental health issues.
Wyckoff and Leu both think that the growing numbers of technological advancements made to support people dealing with mental health issues is wonderful –– and crucial. 
“Mental health is so different for every person,” Wyckoff said. “You can generalize it with anxiety, depression, XYZ, but coming out with more technology to help specific illnesses is so incredible. It can make a big impact on someone’s life, even for just the short-term.”
Leu believes that technologies are important, but they can’t be the only factor to assist with creating a healthier mentality. She says that typically, not one problem is solved through one solution, but rather requires a combination of things. This includes therapy, eating well and other methods of self-care, including new technologies like therapeutic lights. 
More than anything, Leu believes it all comes down to helping oneself and one’s mental health as much as possible. Whatever form of self care one deems necessary is what they should exercise in order to keep a healthy mental state.
“If it’s winter and it’s below zero, I’ll wear gloves, or else I’ll end up with frostbite,” Leu said. “If it’s dark and dreary and I haven’t seen light in days, I’m going to give myself light, because it’s going to feel good. It’s that simple.”

Photo provided by Verilux.
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