I Literally Use Bottled Sunshine to Get Myself Through the Dark Days of Winter

Photo: Getty Images/LaylaBird
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Except in the sense that it's dark by 4 p.m., in which case it is the bleakest and most awful time of the year and I hate it. I find it so hard to get out of bed, weighed down with layers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), my year-round dysthymia, and my crumb-covered but oh-so-cozy comforter. You probably know that a natural light lamp can help you rise and shine whether you're dealing with SAD or going into the frigid temperature just makes you feel sad. My solution? Grabbing a bottle of sunshine.

Okay, so that makes it sound like I ran to the bodega, picked up a can of sunlight, and now my depression is cured. There were a lot of like, middle steps that factored into this, but let's first recap the very nature of SAD. The Mayo Clinic notes a few symptoms of SAD as feeling depressed day-in and day-out, having low energy, feeling sluggish or agitated, and having problems sleeping. While there isn't a clear-cut explanation as to why individuals experience SAD, one theory is that the lack of light messes with circadian rhythms. Natural light or rather a lack of it is what signifies our body that it's time for sleep. A lack of natural light also decreases feel-good serotonin levels, if you see where I'm going here.

Just as Daylight Saving Time started to mess with my biological clock, I was given the chance to test out Sunlight Inside's Bottled Sunshine Therapy ($249).

A natural light lamp that mimics the time of day

Bottled Sunshine Therapy is really smart about replicating what our body needs during a season when dank darkness is the default. It uses mixes six colors to create different kinds of natural lighting. The key feature with Bottled Sunshine Therapy specifically is that it can automatically cycle to different lighting depending on the time of the day. The afternoon settles down with a warmer level of light. And nighttime? Imagine the light of 150 candles, because that's what it delivers.

natural light lamp bottled sunshine
Photo: Sunlight Inside

That faux candle-light, by the way, is definitely an ally when it's late at night and you're trying to get more cozy and comfy and less empty and miserable. For one thing, candlelight is basically mood lighting if you're attempting to shift from sad to sexy. But more importantly, it can serve as a comforting non-intrusive way to set the tone for bedtime, and if you're for some reason afraid of the dark like me, you have an instant night light.

I was lured to Bottled Sunshine Therapy, though, because of the wake-up brightness and it's potential to shake off your despair. When I was dealing with SAD last year I was freelancing indoors through a bigtime cold spell and literally wouldn't see the light of day for days on end. I would desperately text West Coast friends every week with, "What if I just hopped a plane to California." I felt trapped in New York and I love New York on a Nora Ephron level, but I didn't want to feel like this.

Suffice to say this was The Darkest Timeline, and my life has at least stabilized. Still, I grew wary of my mental health dipping with the temperatures again this year, and waking up with a bottle of sunshine sure made this easier.

When my phone alarm begins to beep at 7 a.m., I wake to the wholesome up-and-at-'em glow of my Bottled Sunshine lamp. Back in the days of freelancing it would take a full forty to get out of bed. Before But this...this knocks things down to a clean "just nine more minutes" after hitting the snooze button. And if I leave it on while I'm getting ready, which I always do, I'm capable of rousing myself out the door and even put on something vaguely festive.

Does it cure my all day winter blues? No, because for better or for worse I spend the majority of my day in Fluorescent Open Floor Office Land. But if I'm home and feeling down in the living room, I'll slink back to the soothing glow of natural light lamp until it's time to drift off.

Of course, we all have our favorite ways to rise and shine

One of my colleagues adores her Casper Glow Light ($129), which both helps her fall asleep and wakes her up a million times less groggy. Another found that combining her Pixel 3 phone ($499) with the Pixel Stand ($79) allowed for a sunrise alarm clock feature that made her mornings brighter. If your aim is simply to wake up and doze off, the concept is worth copying at whatever price point you feel comfortable with.

But for me? I've grown attached to my Bottled Sunshine Therapy. Even though depression is an all-day battle, it at least allows me to combat the first biggest struggle of my disorder: getting out of bed. Now, every morning feels like California.

Still not bright enough for you? Here are a few ways to play with lighting to perk your mood during winter. Or learn more about how red lighting can help put you to bed.

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