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Color & Light Therapy

Here we are in mid-winter. The days may be getting longer, but not long enough, not fast enough. Toss in persistent gray, rainy days, and the lack of sunlight can really become a drag on a person's mood. For some, the lack of sunlight can lead to outright depression.


For centuries, healthcare providers have been interested in the effect of color and light on mental and physical health. Early in the 11th century Avicenna, the most influential doctor of his time, discussed color therapy in his book The Canon of Medicine. Avicenna's observations on the effects of color on the human body remain influential in Ayurvedic medicine's association of colors and chakra's.

More recently, in a 1982 article in the New York Times (Color Has a powerful Effect on Behavior, Researchers Assert, Oct. 19, 1982) Lindsey Gruson publicized psychologists' observations of different color effects on their patients. In her article Ms. Gruson relates how clinical psychologists were painting treatment rooms bubble gum pink to help calm agitated patients. At the same time authorities in London, England painted Blackfriars Bridge blue to help prevent people from jumping off.


Unfortunately, color therapy and light therapy - also called phototherapy or chromotherapy - have had a difficult time attaining recognition as effective methods of healthcare. With a history steeped in mysticism and over-ambitious claims as a curative, color therapy still meets with a great deal of skepticism in clinical circles and the general public. Despite this skepticism, research continues to support claims that light energy has a beneficial effect on peoples' mental and physical health.

Now, clinicians regularly use ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis. Industries and schools have replaced ultraviolet lights with full spectrum lights to better regulate the moods of workers and students. And scientists continue to research the electromagnetic effects of light on the human brain. In alternative medicine, clinicians are turning to Eastern models of medicine and applying different wavelengths of light (different colors) to traditional acupuncture points to release blockages in the flow chi, or chakra in Ayurveda.


The most popular form of light therapy is used to reduce the symptoms caused by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Here in the Northwest an estimated 10% of the population suffers severe symptoms of depression caused by the lack of sunlight in winter months. Another 10% of people suffer mild symptoms. Like many psychological and emotional disturbances, the symptoms of SAD are many and varied, including low energy, increased appetite, irritability, insomnia, migraine headaches, and depression.

So if you struggle through the short, dark days of winter, you may be among the thousands of others to suffer from light deprivation. The days are getting longer. But spring is a long way off and you may need some help regulating your mood until the skies begin to clear and the days brighten. Take heart, because proven methods exist to help you.


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