Healthy Mind

I Tried a Light-Therapy Desk Lamp to Improve My Concentration *and* Mood

Mary Grace Garis

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Photo: Getty Images/Morsa Images

Before I dive in, a friendly tip to anyone who tries the Lumie Vitamin L SAD Lamp ($99): I really wished I had worn sunglasses the first time I turned on the light-therapy desk lamp. That first time, I incorrectly pointed the device directly at my face, providing a white hot halo behind my laptop. But, y’know what they say about hindsight…anyway, I wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but I was absolutely prepared for this light-therapy desk lamp to boost my mood, and, by proxy, my work focus and productivity.

But before I dive in further, yet another disclaimer I feel compelled to share: This ain’t my first light-therapy rodeo—I’m already a fan. I’ve used a sunshine-emulating lamp to wake me up on rough mornings and tend to leave up my Christmas lights until my tree starts to brown. I’m essentially the counselor of Camp Lights Can Boost Your Mood, and I’m not the only one who sing praises of these bright lights.

“Artificial light can change mood and energy. Indoor LED lighting with a spectrum that imitates daylight can diminish sleepiness and improve clarity of thinking and mood.” —clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD

“There’s no question that artificial light can change mood and energy,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “Indoor LED lighting with a spectrum that imitates daylight can diminish sleepiness and improve clarity of thinking and mood. The positive effects reported by human subjects have been confirmed by EEGs.” Basically, Dr. Daramus cosigns my hypothesis that using a SAD lamp to improve focus for work tasks can, well, work—so long as proper boundaries are in place regarding time parameters for using it.

“While I’m not about to give up coffee in favor of a new lamp, that kind of lighting can slightly improve productivity…though it adds to the risk of disrupting circadian rhythms and throwing off your sleep and moods,” Dr. Daramus says.

Well, this marks the first instance I’ve ever tried using light therapy exclusively for work, an avenue where its benefits may be most fruitful for me. So I’m comfortable gambling that risk to see if I can snag a worthy reward. So I started turning Lumie light-therapy desk lamp at the beginning of a workday (early and during natural daylight, so as to hopefully not throw off my circadian rhythm)…and then something intriguing happened.

Shop now: Lumie Vitamin SAD Lamp, $99

Here’s what happened when we used a concentration light at work

When the Lumie light-therapy desk lamp was glaring straight at my face, I wasn’t paying attention to my work—I mean how could I be? The Lumie itself was demanding my full attention with its bright sheen. But, since according to the company website, the device only really requires 30 minutes to improve your mood, concentration, and energy, I resigned myself to powering through that half-hour, even though it didn’t seem to be effectively doing much beyond burning my eyes and forcing me to squint at my laptop monitor. After a two days, I realized that, duh, the lamp is meant to be at my side, more subtly illuminating my workspace, not blinding me point blank. And, worth noting, at that point, I no longer felt the need for sunglasses.

Once the Lumie was properly projecting light to my side, like it should’ve been the whole time (whoops), I did feel a temporary spike in my level of alertness. Not in any magnificent life-changing way, to be sure, but while working at my desk, I did feel more encouraged than normal to stay on task rather than face-plant onto my keyboard. And I felt happier, too.

And so I decided to incorporate the light into my life in a more permanent way, beyond the trial period of testing whether the device could be an effective tool for both improving my focus and mood. That’s because, ultimately, the desk-lamp experiment provided for some welcome, productive joy. The lamp is a literal burst of light, and during a very slow, murky work time, I can use that helpful injection of happiness and nudge to focus on my work now more than ever. I’m glad to have any tool that facilitates improved mood and concentration during a time like this—and this light-therapy desk lamp fits the bill.

Cool news, the best light color for a dreamy night of sleep costs only $10. And here’s what happened when one writer switch a sunrise alarm clock for their blare of a cell phone.

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