Thursday, February 7, 2008

Come On, Get Happy!

Do you have the winter blahs? At our house, the months December through March are not very pretty. After reading about S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder, I became convinced that at least 2, possibly three of us could use a little extra sunlight during these winter months. S.A.D. can lead to irritability, depression, and tiredness. I also read that this year S.A.D. would be worse than usual for night owls because of the way daylight savings time was extended for an extra month. I didn’t understand any of the science behind this claim, but I sprung into action.

Cruising the net, I saw a lot of light therapy boxes for sale. Most were enormous, monolithic creations that reminded me of the tanning beds I frequented in the 80’s. Not only did they look creepy, as if they had been assembled by either a mad scientist or an 8th grader in his basement, they cost more than $200! I took a leap and ordered a smaller, hipper version from The Sharper Image. It blends in nicely on my kitchen counter, so I can blast the kids with it at breakfast time. We call it “The Happy Light.”

All of the bigger boxes have dramatic testimonials and medical claims on their websites. The Shaper Image one doesn’t make any promises, but I do hope it works. I think it does something, because the first few times we used it, I sat the kids in front of it in the late afternoon, and they couldn’t go to sleep at night. I learned later that optimal exposure is in the MORNING and that using it later can cause insomnia. The Happy Light has not led to any dramatic changes in our moods, but I don’t want to risk not using it. We just got back from 4 days in Cleveland sans Happy Light, and we were none too happy.

The other product I considered getting, but my husband balked at both the concept and the price, was a dawn simulator. I figured we would use this very ordinary looking lamp in the kids’ rooms, and at around 6 am it would start to emit a very delicate glow. By our normal wake-up time of 7:30, the room would be awash in light, and the kids would bound out of bed refreshed and eager to start the day. My husband, however, suggested I could start getting out of bed earlier myself so I would be less cranky (ugh) and flick on the kids’ lights for free. Instead of gentle beams of light, they would awake to our normal sounds of morning, “Get out of bed! Move it! Now!” It is true that on the rare occasion I wake up much earlier than the kids, I feel calm and centered, but I have a hard time convincing myself that it’s such a good idea when my bed is so darn cozy.

I think it’s especially hard for my husband, a morning person, to deal with us on dark winter mornings. By the time the rest of us get up, he has walked the dog, brewed his coffee, played catch with the dog, and started on his morning devotional. He’s perky and cheery, playing Snow White to our Grumpy, Weepy, and Sassy.

Two of my favorite things in the morning are my cereal and the morning paper. I’m not sure if it’s making a difference or not, but I’ve recently added a third element to this morning routine: perching on a stool in front of the Happy Light after the kids head off to school. My husband wouldn’t dare say I need the Happy Light for myself, but I hope he’s reaping its benefits. Maybe the next time Snow White comes flitting into the kitchen, I won’t want to knock one of those annoying little birdies off of his shoulders.

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