Image courtesy of Hannah Zhou / North by Northwestern.

No wonder the white light therapy in SPAC is free for students. It shouldn’t cost shit.

After going through the whole process of white light therapy, I really felt over-prepared. I had called the Wellness Suite at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion beforehand to schedule an appointment, only to find out that they only do walk-ins. At that moment, I should’ve known something was off. Then I came to discover that white light therapy entails sitting on a bean bag in front of a lamp.

White light therapy uses artificial light to re-adjust our circadian rhythms, which can fall out of sync from how gosh darn early the sun sets in the winter. “Light therapy – exposure to artificial light – can be a safe, effective way to treat symptoms of depression, seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), sleep disorders and mood disorders,” according to Northwestern University Recreation's website.

However, all the benefits of white light therapy listed on the website start with “may” – as in, it “may alleviate S.A.D” or it “may help improve your mood” or it “may help you feel better about yourself and life” – so you may just feel nothing after white light therapy.

After I walked about the Wellness Suite, I didn’t feel changed in any sense. (Although I was content to have a protein smoothie from the Protein Bar.) More than anything, I was so surprised that it was so informal and simple.  

To be fair, I did only sit there for 10 minutes and the therapy does recommend going three to four times a week for 15 minutes each session for at least two weeks. But for me who can’t even get my ass to Blomquist every day – which is by Plex – walking to SPAC all the way from Willard is going to be really unrealistic.

But if you are curious (and dedicated enough) to experience this for yourself, all it requires is walking up to the Wellness Suite and signing a waiver that you understand you’re using white light therapy at your own risk. (Apparently, some initial side effects of white light therapy may include headaches, eye strain, eye irritation, or nausea!) The signup sheet was pretty much empty and only goes to 3:30 p.m. because it’ll start to affect your sleep schedule after that. (Maybe if you need to stay awake to study, try white light therapy instead of that Red Bull.)

I was fully expecting there to be something like a tanning bed. The reality? Nope. Not even close. The lady at the front desk led us into a room slightly larger than a double with two sagging bean bags, some chairs and a white light box on top of a small cabinet.

The lightbox reminds me of a stage light that blinds you if you look directly at it. That’s why you’re only supposed to have the light “indirectly” enter your eyes; I interpreted that as scrolling on my phone.

My friend who accompanied me to the white light therapy (the person who finessed me into writing this article) couldn’t take it for more than five minutes and had to move farther away from the light. Once you do more sessions and get accustomed to the light, you’re supposed to move closer and closer to the light each time. Start from about 40 inches, and if you keep up with it, for the next one to two weeks, you can scooch closer until you’re only two feet away.

If the Wellness Suite added a speaker with chill music (I’m thinking the Marías or Daniel Caesar) with some snacks, I might want to go there more often just to unwind. White light therapy could be the new coffee house that keeps you up with white light rather than caffeine!

After the timer hit 10 minutes, we decided to go. We picked up our backpacks and walked out. Ya está. Maybe you can try the white light therapy just for kicks, but you probably won’t see me there anytime soon!