Could Red Light Therapy Calm Your Anxiety?
If you happen to be part of the 18% (and counting) of the Irish population who suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may be seeking out an alternative therapy, so you can live your life to the fullest again. Recent studies have shown almost 1-in-4 people in Ireland have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder since 2020. However, there’s a new treatment on the block, and it's showing some promising results: red light therapy.
How light affects the body
Light is an important part of our overall health and well-being. In fact, we all need natural light in order for our bodies to function optimally. With working from home now the norm, people are spending much more time indoors and most are not exposed to adequate natural light in day-to-day life. This affects healthy cell functioning and bodily processes.
Lack of sunlight leads to mood disorders
Lack of exposure to adequate natural light can deplete serotonin and dopamine stores, resulting in chronic anxiety and depression. In addition to this, spending too much time indoors can itself can lead to various mood disorders, including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Before we explore the benefits of red light therapy as a treatment for anxiety and depression, it is important to note that while beneficial, red light therapy should not replace working with a therapist or any other prescribed treatments but instead be used to enhance their effects and boost the overall wellbeing of the body.
How can red light therapy treat anxiety?
Now that you have a better understanding of how natural light impacts your mood and overall wellbeing, let’s look at how, specifically, red light therapy can help you manage your anxiety symptoms.
There are mitochondria within every cell in your body that are responsible for generating energy. Much like with photosynthesis in plants, red light therapy stimulates these powerhouse cells and produces a number of favourable results. These include:
- Increase blood circulation and thus create an anti-inflammatory response throughout the body;
- Optimise metabolic activity in the brain cells to more effectively take in oxygen and help you think clearly;
- Reduce free radicals and cell damage;
- Reduce global inflammation, decreasing brain fog, pain and elevating mood.
Unlike other forms of light, red light can infiltrate the many layers of skin more deeply and therefore the cells in the body can more readily absorb light. This has led scientists to also refer to red light therapy as photobiomodulation therapy – or PBMT – because of its unique ability to influence cellular functioning. Recent studies showed that regular red light therapy treatments reduced anxiety in up to 70% of participants within two weeks. With this in mind, let’s look at the mental health benefits of red light therapy in detail.
Recharge Your Batteries
Low levels of energy and fatigue are often associated with anxiety disorders. As we touched on above, red light therapy stimulates the mitochondria that power your body with the energy it needs to function. Because the body is so amazing and cleverly designed, it sends the energy to whichever part of the body needs it most. So, after regular red light therapy sessions you can expect to start feeling an increase in your energy levels and clarity of thought.
Give Your Brain A Boost
When red light therapy is concentrated on the head, some remarkable things can happen, which in turn, reduce symptoms of anxiety. First neuroprotection occurs, which means your brain cells function in an optimal state and cell death is reduced. Second, neurogenesis takes place, which is the regrowth of neurons damaged by injury or degeneration. Last but not least, red light therapy triggers synaptogenesis, which boost neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to form new neural connections – this can help you replace the neural connections linked to your anxiety.
Catch More Z’s
One of the best benefits by far of red light therapy is improved sleep. Red light therapy is able to reach the hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain that controls your circadian rhythm, aka when your brain tells you it’s time to wake up and time to go to sleep. If your circadian rhythm is out of whack, and you’re fighting insomnia night after night, this can reduce your body’s ability to stay zen.
When you’re tired you’re less equipped to deal with stressful situations and more inclined to go into fight-or-flight mode more easily. In fact, lack of sleep more than doubles your odds of experiencing anxiety. It’s also no secret that many anxiety sufferers struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep – in fact, up to 70% report sleep disturbances as a main symptom of their condition.
While bright, natural light can signal to your brain it’s time to be awake, red light stimulates the brain to produce sleep-inducing melatonin, helping you fall asleep faster and for longer.
Red light therapy increases optimal metabolic activity in the body’s cells, improves blood circulation (and thereby oxygen absorption) and increases cognitive function. This brings about a sense of physical, mental and emotional well-being. These three pillars of health are interconnected and when one is under strain, your overall sense of well-being will also take a knock. Red light therapy’s ability to bring about holistic wellness can make you more mindful of the powerful mind-body-spirit connection.
Create Self-Care Habits
A big part of managing anxiety disorders is implementing routines and rituals, and self-care should always form part of this routine. For example, part of your daily routine could be going for a walk after work and a healthy ritual could be repeating positive affirmations while you’re doing your hair in the morning. Red light therapy can become a part of your self-care routine by forcing you to take 15 minutes out of your day to relax and release the stress of the day.
Red light therapy offers a drug-free, complementary treatment that can enhance the effectiveness of talk therapy and prescribed medications to bring about holistic wellness including better sleep, improved cognitive function and higher energy levels. Ready to give red light therapy a try? Find a device for discreet and convenient treatment in the comfort of your home.
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