Campus News

Wellness Center fights off winter doldrums with light therapy

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock throughout the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that the weather has consisted of nothing but dark and cloudy days, as of late. For the average individual living in the Midwest, these gloomy days can begin to take a toll on one’s overall health and well-being.
Although many on Bethel’s campus may be feeling the toll of the countless bleak days, there is a shimmer of hope coming to students from the Wellness Center on campus.
James Hurst, a licensed psychologist within the Wellness Center gave The Bethel Beacon the inside scoop as to what exactly light therapy treats and how it can help Bethel students.
“Light therapy has been shown to help individuals suffering from depressive symptoms, more specifically those of, 'seasonal affective disorder,' which is a certain type of clinical depression," stated Hurst. "However, individuals who may not feel like they have full-blown depression but the lack of sunlight affects their moods can try the light too."
Hurst went on to say, “These winter months can be kind of tough just because people aren’t able to get outside as much. The weather is just dark and grey and those things, even if it’s not full-blown depression can just kind of give you the 'blahs' sometimes."
And this specific type of therapy isn’t just a hoax as some may find themselves wondering.
“The bottom line is that there is research to support that for some people with depressive symptoms, light therapy helps," said Hurst. "There’s some science behind it. IT is a treatment that’s recommended by doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, specialists, especially the more “northern” in the United States you go."
Since Bethel students live in the northern sphere of the world, they are more than able to try this new holistic form of therapy.
“If a student wants to try it and see if it helps them, they’re welcome to do so," said Hurst. "They don’t need to meet some sort of diagnostic criteria or anything like that. When somebody comes over for light therapy and maybe they’re just experiencing not all but maybe just a few of those in a mild way, then we can still treat them using light therapy. We give them a questionnaire before their first session and then after a week or two we have them do the same questions so they can see if the therapy is helping."
If someone’s not currently working with a counselor, then they may be suggested to see a professional as well.
“The research does show that if you’re going to be doing it, you want to use the light with some consistency, said Hurst."Each person starts out with smaller increments of 10-15 min and then works their way up over time with a maximum of 60 min. Students can read while they’re doing it so it isn’t super time consuming."
I also asked Hurst what specifically had caused the new therapy to enter the sphere at Bethel.
“The light therapy is something that actually we had done before here, maybe five years ago," said Hurst. "It was something we offered here. I don’t know why it stopped, but we started to just think about any other services we could offer to students and the light therapy seemed to be one we could try again. We had the light, it still functions fine so it wasn’t any new cost for us or anything."
As I finished gathering much of the information pertaining to the backstory of light therapy on campus, it became time for me to try out the light therapy myself.
To start the session, I entered a room that had a sole chair with a large light sitting just off to the side. I, then, was handed a questionnaire to fill out and told some instructions. I was given a five-minute limit to that specific session. I, then, was left alone to sit by the warm light while filling out my questionnaire. As for the intensity of the light….it was BRIGHT. I understood why we’d been told not to look directly into the light. After my timer went off, I shut the light off and walked back out to the lobby. Just like that, the session was over.
From my experience, I can tell you that the session is a peaceful one that any student could enjoy while working on homework or just relaxing. If you or someone you know is at all interested in finding out more about this new form of therapy, simply call the Wellness Center and set up an appointment.
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