large light is better than a teeny-weeny one — I recommend light boxes be at least 1 foot square, maybe more.” He also recommends checking for brands that have been used in clinical research, as a measure of quality.
Some researchers have suggested that a DIY approach to light therapy can be hit or miss, in part because it’s hard to know exactly how much light you’re getting. Rosenthal says that trying light therapy on your own is fine, but he suggests reading up to make sure you understand how to use the light box to its greatest effect.
It’s important that the light be used in the morning, when it is most beneficial, and that it is used consistently. “If you skip a day, that’s probably OK,” he says. “But skip two days, and symptoms will start to come back. As you become aware that the light is helping you and making you more energetic, it becomes like brushing your teeth — you don’t skip a day brushing your teeth.”
Perhaps the most important step in fighting SAD, however, is the first one: just get started. “Intervene as soon as it’s having an impact on your quality of life or function,” Rosenthal says. “If you’re sluggish, finding it hard to get yourself going, often it’s a cognitive issue.”
Get in touch with friends, start making plans and get moving quickly to stop the symptoms before winter and depression take hold.
And, in spite of the temptation to “fall back” now that daylight saving time has ended, dig yourself out from under those covers and treat your retinas to some sunlight. “Sleeping in,” Rosenthal says, “is very bad for people with the winter blues.”