In private practice, I often utilize steps from the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) program developed by Dr. Stephen Ilardi. TLC is a 6-step program aimed at enhancing six key areas of your lifestyle in order to combat mental health problems. Originally developed for the treatment of depression, TLC is now often used in the treatment of other mental health conditions as well as overall holistic mind-body wellness.
Presented below is an overview of Step 4 in the TLC program: Light Exposure.
If you spend most of your time indoors, the light receptors in your eyes are not recieving the stimulation the need. This can lead to major effects on your brain chemistry and body clock. A lack of bright light exposure depletes serotonin circuits. If your body clock does not get reset regularly, it starts to drift and get off course. The therapeutic effects of bright light can occur quickly; you may feel the effects in about 1 week. As always, please consult your doctor before beginnign a new regimen.
Get 15 to 30 minutes of bright light each, when vitamin D synthesis is possible. For symptoms of depression, 30 minutes of bright light each day provides an antidepressant effect.
Bright light exposure must take place at the right time of day. For most, this is in the morning. Finding the right time depends on your sleep habits.....
• Late shift: Morning sluggishness. Difficulty waking up. Trouble falling asleep at night. Even if you receive 10 or more hours of sleep, you still
• Goal: 30 minutes of bright light exposure at the same time each morning, within the first hour upon waking.
• Early shift: Little trouble falling asleep. Wake up too early in morning
and unable to go back to sleep.
• Goal: 30 minutes of bright light exposure in the early evening,
about 5 hours before bedtime. Bright light exposure can NOT
occur within 2 hours of bedtime.
• Fragmented sleep: Wake up frequently throughout night. No obvious pattern to sleep.
• Goal: Bright light exposure in the morning, 1/2 hour to 1 hour
• Healthy sleep: Little trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking in morning.
• Goal: 15 minutes of bright light exposure in the morning, between 1/2 hour to 2 hours after waking.
If you are indoors the majority of the day and are unable to get bright light exposure, purchase a light box. Details of this may be discussed in session.
Check out the video below to learn more about the importance of light exposure for mental health.
Ilardi, Stephen. (2009). The Depression Cure. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Holland Miller, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, provides individual and group therapy for adolescents and adults in Austin, TX. Specializing in the treatment of depression, chronic low mood, and chronic stress, she incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLCs) to enhance positive mood, healthy functioning, and overall well-being.
Dr. Miller is particularly passionate about working with adolescent girls and adult women who want to boost their mood and energy, improve their self-esteem and relationships with others, better cope with stress while reducing anxiety and tension, and develop healthy lifestyle habits for lasting wellness.
When she is not in the office, Dr. Miller enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, and two mischievous goldendoodles. She can be found discovering the latest Austin adventure, reading and researching, exploring the outdoors on hiking and camping trips, and trying out new recipes.
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