The HAPPY Lamp

On Christmas morning, my husband gifted me with a light therapy lamp. For those of you who are not familiar with light therapy, it is a home-use lamp that helps combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I use my SAD lamp every day, but in this house, per the  husband’s request, we refer to it as the HAPPY lamp (oh, silly wordplay and optimism!) and that is how I will refer to it here.

While it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between my winter blues and my homesick-fueled pining to be back in Florida (where it is 74 degrees today, FYI), the HAPPY lamp was a justifiable purchase. We have jokingly suggested that it was a Christmas gift for the whole family because when I’m feeling a bit dispirited or wholly miserable, everyone knows it. I make sure to tell my family and do my best to convince them that they should also be miserable. Misery loves company, right? Well, the HAPPY lamp keeps me company these days, especially when I’m no fun to be around.

Does it work? A friend of mine in Pittsburgh asked me this the other day. Her husband is having a hard time this winter and she’s considering buying one for him. While I cannot say yes or no at this point (light therapy is recommended daily for 3-4 weeks before any positive changes are felt), I can make a few other suggestions, on top of the HAPPY lamp, that are helping me get through winter here in Oklahoma. If you have suggestions of your own, please share!

  • Candles: There is something comforting in soft light. I also heard a few days ago on some news show that lighting a candle that give off one’s favorite scent is an easy way to jolt one’s happiness levels. I believe this. Our house usually smells like red velvet cake, vanilla, pineapple-cilantro, or lemon-lavender at any given time.
  • Greenery: I love being surrounded by trees and flowers. Winter kills this for me and, in turn, I think it makes the world ugly to me for a few months. The palm trees and loblolly pines of the south don’t shed in the fall, so to be surrounded by bare trees (and no trees, sometimes) is challenging. I brought my potted plants indoors and tend to them every few days. In fact, I’m thinking of bringing in more (my husband doesn’t know this yet) and putting a plant in every room in the house. Yes, I would like a tree in here but I can’t promise Teddy won’t pee on it.
  • Comfort food: My daughter loves my homemade chicken soup. I love big, hearty breakfasts and biscuits with gravy. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn soufflé! Basically, I wish I could eat Thanksgiving dinner every day until spring, although I do find some comfort in the frozen bags of okra in my freezer and the citrus fruit my parents sent to us. Spring and summer are going to happen again, one day.
  • Wistful nostalgia: In the form of photographs, I’ve been reliving warmer, sunnier days here in Oklahoma. I figured I would share some of these photos with you, too. This gives me a boost when I realize that in only 3 months I might be able to start digging up my first Oklahoma garden (even though we’re actually considering trough gardening this year, but that’s another post for another day). I plan to grow sunflowers of all sizes and colors, hollyhock, more lavender, and native wildflowers. I can’t wait until my world looks like this again!
cape honeysuckle

cape honeysuckle

salt marsh caterpillar

salt marsh caterpillar on yellow mums

dayflowers

dayflowers

Indian Blanket

Indian Blanket

I’ve got a few months to go.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow through with my daily dose of HAPPY lamp rays. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, increased appetite and sleep (not decreased as with other forms of depression), social withdrawal, irritability, and quite a few others. I believe wholeheartedly that the purchase and daily use of a HAPPY lamp is worth the money and time spent in front of it (it only requires 30 minutes a day for 3-4 weeks to receive the full benefits of light therapy).

I want to love Oklahoma so I do not blame Oklahoma for this. I refuse to let winter thwart my attempts to feel at home here. I suffered the same ill-effects during our Florida winters when Nor’easters would drench our coastal city for days at a time or when temperatures fell to unusual lows resulting in ice on the roads. Jacksonville natives still talk about that day in 1989 when snow flurries fell as if it were the apocalypse.

Winter happens. The seasons happen. The cycle, the renewal, and the rebirth, blah blah blah. My husband occasionally brings up the idea of vacationing in Colorado for a ski trip. I cannot be tricked into this as I know skiing involves snow which involves cold. I counter that with an idea of my own, of vacationing somewhere not covered in snow, someplace warm!

Perhaps I’ll be converted. Perhaps I’ll come to enjoy winter. Perhaps I’ll need a bigger HAPPY lamp.

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17 thoughts on “The HAPPY Lamp

  1. I hope that it is all working, I think that SAD would hit you much harder when you’ve come from such a warm, lush place like Florida and how the seasons don’t change as much in the southern states. Oh, and I have to say, I feel your pain for your husband pushing for visiting a cold weather place. That’s what my husband and I are doing in like a week, we are visiting an especially cold place for his birthday while my idea of vacation is somewhere warm and tropical. Preferably someplace close to the ocean, I just absolutely love swimming in the ocean! 🙂

    • The scenery is a bit depressing to me, brown and dead. It doesn’t help that the sky has been gray for 2 days now, but tomorrow is going to be awesome!

  2. I’m so glad to see someone else who is new to the HAPPY lamp experience! Maybe I’ll be more motivated to keep using mine consistently. I would really love an update about how it’s working for you as winter progresses. I’m much farther north than OK and it is below freezing almost all the time. I like your other suggestions too…I have about 20 plants in my tiny apartment. My strategies include good, happy music, feeling pretty (a long shower, painted nails, special jewelry), and plenty of time with those who love you. I hope winter treats you well…I think I’ve been inspired to go buy more plants! 🙂

  3. I’d much prefer a Happy Lamp to a Sad Lamp. I’m looking at moving from Southern California to Utah in a year or two, and am concerned about transitioning to cold winters in a valley between two mountain ranges. While snow has it’s own beauty, I might use some of this advice to prevent SAD.

    • I guess it’s a good thing that I expected it, so I was at least armed with that in the beginning. My mother confessed to me how much she cried during the years we lived in Upper Michigan – it’s an isolated part of the country (and isolating in its environment). That says a lot considering she grew up in Wisconsin – the UP was worse for her. Good luck to you – the snow would make me feel like I’m being detained but I also don’t know how to have fun in the stuff. I prefer beaches!

  4. An Okie forever and I still do not “like” winter….I want to hibernate on days like today. But I must say….when the sun is out and the few times the wind is not blowing….I love to bundle up and enjoy it…even if just for a few minutes. Hang in there, new Okie….spring is so worth it!

  5. I follow a WordPress blog called callmeshebear…you might have seen her on freshly pressed? She wrote a post not long ago about her lamp and SAD, to which I wrote a loonngg comment that would apply well here too. Some day when you have time to kill see if you can find her post. It was very, very good.
    Briefly, I’ll just say this: I always believed in SAD but will admit to being a tad skeptical. .. until I moved away from the north. Now I believe it had an enormous impact on me and figured prominently in my 25yr drug addiction.
    I think your happy lamp is a very wise choice. Best of luck to you. I understand how you’re feeling and it isnt a fun place to be.

    • I will most definitely take a look through her blog! Thank you for that. And while researching a bit about SAD, I was surprised to see how some experts now believe that SAD can also lead to bipolar. I was shocked!

      As far as your personal demons go, I’m happy you are who you are today!

      • 🙂 what a lovely, kind thing to say. Thank you!
        Re: SAD, I think science/medicine is giving it more credence these days which is good. More research should lead to new alternatives for handling and treating it
        .

    • Thanks for directing me that way. I did read her post and it’s comforting to know other people suffer similarly. Comfort in suffering? There’s got to be a better way to say that!

  6. Winter can indeed be survivable and even beautiful. It does take a different lense, but especially with plenty of plants and those special lights it can offer an essential time of respite and dreaming.

    One book that shows the season in all of its glories is “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Halprin. It is one of the richest, most imaginative stories that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I’d recommend it! http://www.amazon.com/Winters-Tale-Mark-Helprin/dp/0156031191/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358305907&sr=8-1&keywords=winter%27s+tale

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