I’ve been putting this blog post together on the Friday after Blue Monday, and frankly this week has lived up to it’s name - not only Monday, but every day this week has been a struggle, have you felt the same? Personally I think it’s a bad idea to name a day that’s supposed to be depressing and sad, we’re not giving ourselves much of a chance are we?!
Anyway, I wanted to write a post today all about light and light as therapy that can help us boost our mood and stay happy and healthy during the winter.
But firstly, let’s discuss light in general:
It’s hard to see how something that’s not ingested can be bad for us, isn’t it? It’s not junk food or too much alcohol, it’s just light. But you see, here’s the thing - humans have evolved in conjunction with the sun and all the wavelengths of light that make up the full spectrum, but technology has isolated only the blue fraction in bright LEDs and fancy lighting displays. We sit indoors behind a screen, lights on overhead with only the blue light (and a bit of green if we’re lucky) and no red, orange, purple etc..Red Light
The red fractions of light have been shown to be the most healing on the body, they penetrate deep down into our cells to calm inflammation systemically, and if you’re a bit of a wellness warrior you may have seen people using specific red light therapy lamps on-line which combine the visible red light fraction with the invisible infra-red. Infra-red saunas have also sprung up over town and are providing powerful healing benefits to everyone and anyone.Why Is Blue Light An Issue?
When the sun rises in the morning, the light it emits is equal parts blue light and equal parts red light, which is why we get lovely pink and red skies! The one frequency that’s not present is UVA/UVB (which comes later on in the day, hence the 12-3pm stay out of the sun and don’t burn mantra). So, blue light from native sources (i.e. the sun) is always balanced by red. We were never, ever designed to see blue light by itself - which is exactly what we see all day long in our 21st Century lives with our screens and TVs.
42% of sunlight is infra-red A. That means 42% of sunlight has the regenerative (red light) effect. 42%!!!! That’s huge, and there’s a reason for this. Inside our cells we have our mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of the cell that basically run every process within the body (healing, repair, disease control, inflammation, energy production etc).
Now, one of the cytochromes in our mitochondria (cytochromes are electron transfer agents), called Cytochrome C Oxidase, has four absorption spectrums and guess where they are? All in the red light spectrum. We simply aren’t getting enough red light to be optimally healthy these days.
What If There’s No Sun?
Even if it’s cloudy we can still synthesise UVB and create vitamin D on the skin. Near infra-red A light is still present in cloudy conditions, and helps regulate the circadian rhythm and ultimately metabolism. So it doesn't matter if it’s not sunny, the health benefits are still there for the taking - but of course, if it is sunny, then make sure you get some on your skin and in your eyes!
This is why I’m not a fan of SAD lights, they confuse our circadian rhythm and our mitochondria by isolating too much of the blue light, when actually we can still get so much benefit from just being outdoors on a cloudy day! And take those sunglasses off!
Now we’re talking... I am a huge fan of using a red lamp therapy device to improve mood and general wellbeing. Conditions like anxiety and depression are essentially inflammation of the neurons in our brain, so anything that works on calming inflammation on a systemic level is beneficial for boosting mood. Not only that but increasing your wellbeing makes you feel great in itself. Red light has also been shown to be hugely helpful in treating skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
And, because it works on the mitochondria in the cell it actually energises you too, and on those grey, rainy days in winter I’m sure we could all do with a bit more get-up-and-go!
If you are keen to give red light therapy a go, then the UK based company Red light Rising have a really great offering, plus lots of other useful information on their website too. You can also use the code GKNUTRITION for a small discount! You can also take a listen to the episode of my podcast with Bryan Gohl, co-founder of Red Light Rising, for some more information.
So there you have it, the antidote to blue Monday is red!
MA Cantab D.N.Med
Nutritional Therapy and Lifestyle Medicine