My SAD Lamp Has Made Me Marginally Less Sad: An Update

Last week I posted about giving in and buying a $99 SAD lamp despite my hesitations and dubiousness with regard to their efficacy. It’s not that I had done any real research or talked to a doctor or therapist about the issue — which you know, recommended! And it’s not that I didn’t think it totally worked for some people or that mental health issues are anything to really joke about.

I guess I thought SAD lamps seemed both too good to be true and generally way more expensive than I assumed. I am always hesitant to throw money at my problems, and felt like this might be one of those situations. After all, shouldn’t I accept my wintertime despair like I do the cellulite in my butt and the bags under my eyes? Are SAD lamps the equivalent of expensive under eye creams or like, those shaking belts in infomercials that eliminate stubborn belly fat? Is this not my cross to bear? Do I even deserve this lamp? What if I end up totally broke one day soon and I look over at my SAD lamp and think about how much I could use those 99 dollars?

I guess I blame the SADness.

And my total ignorance about the subject.

And that I was raised Catholic.

Have I mentioned that I don’t floss?

Anyway, it has been almost a week since my SAD lamp has arrived and I have spent the first half hour of every morning eating breakfast and obsessively reading my phone under the harsh glow of 10,000 lux of white light. Obviously it’s still early and these things are impossible to really measure, but I am very in touch with my feelings so this is what I can offer:

1. I have had NO despair! None. Bad feelings? Yes. Have I cried? Yes. Been mad at my romantic partner for no reason other than he seems like he is in a bad mood and now I’M in a bad mood, and god I hate him? Obviously, yes. Have I been tired? Yes, though I will say I am fighting off a cold. But I haven’t once done the whole, “Nothing matters oh my god I’m so depressed I don’t know what to do I want to feel better but I also want to do nothing oh my god it’s dark out and it’s too cold to go anywhere but I have to get out of here but I have nowhere to go oh my god the only hope we have is spring and that isn’t for forever,” etc etc.

I mean, it’s true that the only hope we do have is Spring, and I have still Googled “sunset times, NYC” then “DST, 2014″ pretty much every day this week, but that is just part of living during January.

2. I did a few things that have been on my to-do list for almost a year. Okay I did one thing that has been on my to-do list for almost a year, which was put money in a mutual fund. This could be less related to the lamp and more to the fact that I saw that the index fund I kept putting off investing in made 33% last year and my high-yield savings account made .79%. But still! I stopped procrastinating. +1, lamp.

3. On day 3 of the lamp I woke up with no alarm at 7:30 a.m. Wide awake! Now, I know this is a thing many humans do regularly, but I have dreamed of this moment for so long and been unable to accomplish it. And it has happened every day since! 7:30, boom, awake two hours earlier than usual. Out of bed, go grab the lamp, get back in bed, set the lamp on the pillow next to me while I drink coffee and congratulate myself for being awake.

My next step I guess is to stop being the person who literally lies in bed eating cereal with a SAD lamp balancing on a pillow, but hey, we’re all doing the best we can.

Now, the question of course remains: Is this a placebo? As many of you pointed out with my last post, there have been many studies to confirm the effectiveness of light therapy, but it doesn’t work for all people, and maybe it’s just the placebo effect working on me. But you know what? I am FINE with that. Bring it on! I have been trying to wake up early and escape my despair for many a winter, so if I am fully at peace with paying $99 to trick myself into escaping the limitations of my own psyche.

In conclusion: March 9th is Daylight Saving’s Time. We can do this! Probably.

Photo: By Slllu, via Wikimedia Commons

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19 Comments / Post A Comment

BananaPeel (#1,555)

Congrats girl but tell us more about that 33% index fund please!

j a y (#3,935)

@BananaPeel Nothing special, but very intelligent – the US economy rebounded (for rich people!/snerk) by about 33% last year so if you bought an index fund that follows the US market (these tend to have super low fees aka MER which is the main thing) then you made 33%.

http://canadiancouchpotato.com/2014/01/09/couch-potato-portfolio-returns-for-2013/ < canadian site, but shows the point.

However, if the entire market did badly, you would have lost money. But academically speaking, the greatest drag on a portfolio is fees, and managed funds that have higher fees do not do any better, on average than these low fee index funds (also Exchange Traded Funds).

I also invested in Canadian and International index funds (because I’m Canadian) so my returns weren’t quite 33%. But I didn’t buy any bond funds so they were pretty good. I talk like I’m such an awesome investor but the truth is the sums of money involved are miniscule HA!

j a y (#3,935)

@j a y Feel I should add this: (Not that I recommend forgo-ing bonds, they add stability but I didn’t need stability since I wouldn’t be losing much money at all if I lost money. Usually, they would drag a bad market return back up, or in the case of last year, drag a good market return down.)

But the point is, buying something that follows the entire market diversifies things and is cheap to own. So any fund that charges fees above 1% is ripping most people off.

jquick (#3,730)

@j a y Buy Vanguard. Top notch and very low fees.

Meaghano (#529)

@jquick yes! As the others have said, low fees make such a difference you often do better just using an index fund. And the stock market did unusually well last year. if you don’t want to make a hobby out Of this stuff — I def don’t — Vanguard has reliably low fees across the board and they give you a quiz about your risk tolerance and plans for the $ and off you go (they’re who I use for IRA and this fwiw, based I think on a billfold post back in the day).

muush (#521)

@Meaghano Link to the post, please? Also, am still trying to figure out the differences between index funds, mutual funds and ETFs and which one would be best for me. I’d love an updated 2014 version of said post!

Ohh thanks for the update, Meaghan! They have a $40 version of your lamp that I am now tempted to try (and the BBB website says an $80 version, all types of options here!). This winter hasn’t been too dark, which is good for my SAD but bad for basically everyone else (yay drought!) I wonder if putting a SAD lamp on a timer would help me get up in the morning? I wonder if my partner would like that less or more than the half hour of snooze I do every morning? (in my defense, I have a low-volume alarm with lovely birds chirping)

Either way, I’m with you counting down the days to March 9th.

laureleye (#5,883)

@polka dots vs stripes I don’t think I have SAD but waking up before sunrise is really hard for me and I go through the rest of the day in an irritable fog. After I moved to Seattle and realized I’d be waking up in the dark for like 4 months out of the year I bought a dawn simulator (specifically the Philips wake up light) and it makes SUCH a difference. I don’t think it’s the same as a light therapy lamp, it’s definitely not as bright or the right spectrum, but purely from a waking up/sleep perspective it’s great. I feel alert in the mornings instead of undead.

It works best if you have it right next to your head, so it doesn’t even disturb my partner much if I have to be up before him, though mostly we get up at the same time.

@laureleye @laureleye I’ve thought about that Philips one before, I just like the price of this (well, the $40 version at least) more ;)

Maybe I’ll spurge next winter.

Marge (#4,715)

@polka dots vs stripes
I have this one: http://www.amazon.com/Lightphoria-000LUX-Energy-Light-Lamp/dp/B004JF3G08/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1391178023&sr=8-2&keywords=sad+lamp

It was lingering on my Amazon Wishlist and I forgot to take all the shameful things off it before sending it to my mom pre-chanukah but it worked out in my favor because lo! She gifted it to me.
I have a hard time remembering to use it in the morning but I’ve been making a better effort to, and it’s also useful in the evening.

I’ve been leaving it in my kitchen so basically if I go in to my kitchen for any stretch of time I turn it on and leave it on. There’s still nothing as energizing as putting shoes on and actually leaving the house during daylight hours though :)

honey cowl (#1,510)

March 9th please come soon PLEASE

Allison (#4,509)

Sunset is now after 5pm in Chicago and Sunrise is inching to before 7am! Woo!

bgprincipessa (#699)

Meaghan, I enjoy all of your posts, but this one is particularly endearing. This is something I’ve always toyed with doing as well, and hearing about your results is great. I understand exactly what you mean about the difference between everyday sads and wholehearted winter despair. And I definitely agree re: the placebo effect – I take melatonin to help me sleep, usually a couple days a week max. Is it just a placebo? I DON’T CARE, because it helps me sleep, no matter how it gets me there. I hope it continues to help you!

This is such a great post! I have always said that what bothers me about winter is not the cold or the snow but the DARK. God. Montreal felt really dark to me. My last couple winters in toronto, super dark. I used to leave for work in the dark, work in a windowless office, and then go home in the dark. And winters just seem to drag on.

This winter is so much different! I feel energized and I don’t feel like god it’s January. I feel good about winter! But it’s been super bright and sunny here and change of living situation and I work in a bright windowful office all day and it’s wonderful. I feel so much happier.

I’m also still … temperamental. Or whatever. Whatever my problem is. So it hasn’t fixed everything, but I do love sunlight. So much! The days are getting longer!!! Spring is coming! Daylight savings time!!

RiffRandell (#4,774)

DST is also my birthday and I cannot wait! Actually, I am more excited about DST than my birthday, they just happen to fall on the same day.

RVA_TXN (#1,461)

I have a SunTouch Plus UV lamp and it has helped a great deal however I added Vitamin D3 (5,000IUs every other day) about two weeks ago and I feel even better! Tomorrow is February 1st and I’m not in my normal mega depressed slump for the first time in years!!!! (February is usually my worst month)

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

Your original post definitely inspired me to get on Amazon and buy one of my own. It’s only been about 2 days and a placebo effect is a DEFINITE possibility, but I am really digging it. I am much less sad. And SAD.

BadUncle (#449)

My psychopharmacologist says you can get all the benefits by taking a walk at noon for 15 minutes without sunglasses.

Meaghano (#529)

@BadUncle I believe that. And aspire to it. But, it’s freezing out! And there is no sun!

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