Happy Lights

Winter Blues

Happy Lamps Logo

Many students feel the effects of the South Bend "perma-cloud" as the days get shorter and sunshine is harder to come by. Otherwise known as the Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is not an uncommon experience and can impact mental health and well-being.

There is a proven connection between the amount of sunlight we receive and our mental well-being. In the early 1980s, researchers discovered the innate relationship between light and seasonal depression (National Institute of Health). Students might begin to see shifts in their well-being in the Fall and Winter months, when the weather gets cooler and there are fewer hours of daylight.

Signs & Symptoms

With the change of seasons, students might recognize some of the following symptoms impacting their mental well-being: 

  • Feeling “down” or irritable
  • Experiencing sleep problems
  • Having lower energy
  • Noticing fluctuations in appetite and/or weight
  • Feeling unmotivated / wanting to “hibernate” 

Happy Lights

“Happy Lights” are one possible solution to the “Winter Blues.” These Light Boxes are designed to emit light into the retina, thus activating the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that helps with our circadian rhythm. When our circadian rhythm is stabilized, it can help keep our seasonal symptoms in balance and reduce feeling the “Winter Blues” (Harvard Health). 

Sunshine On Loan

If you think a Happy Light could be helpful for you during the Winter months, come by McWell to check one out to take home or use in one of our Restoration Spaces!

How to check out a Happy Light: 

  1. Bring in a $25 deposit to McWell on the 2nd floor of St. Liam Hall. Check is preferred but cash is fine. Your money will be returned when you bring back the Happy Light.
  2. Come to the front desk and ask to check out a Happy Light. (It is first come first served, so call ahead to check on availability.)
  3. You will be given an instructional form about how to use the Happy Light, and will then sign a form of acknowledgement before checking out the Light.
  4. If all Happy Lights are currently checked out, your name can be added to a waitlist for the next available Happy Light.

Additional Resources

More research on Happy Lights can be found here:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/01/beat-winter-blues 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/seasonal-affective-disorder-bring-on-the-light-201212215663