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Lights Café opens in Leeds University Union to combat winter depression

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For the third year running Leeds University Union is playing host to a light café intended to boost student wellbeing during the winter months.

The café, open until 19th January, is intended as a place for students to revise as well as offering workshops in meditation and yoga.

The university previously identified January as a key time for student wellbeing, with the combination of the winter exam diet and lack of exposure to natural light playing a large part in the deterioration of mental health on campus. One report from 2015 showed that counselling demand rises steeply at this time of year, with one institution seeing an increase of 50% every year.

The café is lit with lights from light therapy specialist Lumie, which are specifically designed to combat winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These lights emit around twenty times the light intensity of normal lamps. This additional exposure causes the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone which causes happiness, and less melatonin which can make you sleepy.

Although targeted at people on the winter blues spectrum, these lights have been shown to increase energy and alertness across the board. As long as thirty minutes of exposure can be enough to feel the benefits.

Dr Victoria Revell, Circadian Rhythm Expert at Surrey University said:

“We can use light at any time of day to acutely boost our mood, level of alertness and ability to perform cognitive tasks. In the winter when our environmental light levels are at their lowest, using a light box while studying or in the morning when we wake up is an effective way to ensure we get enough light.”

Image by Betty Longbottom

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