Column: Curing the ‘winter blues’ in an unconventional way

How to (possibly) cure the winter blues, according to a reporter and a 60-year-old radiation therapy lamp.


(Photo illustration/Charles Peckman)

The Sperti SunLamp, an anachronistic device that offers a cure for many ailments (or so it claims,) through the use of ultraviolet or UV radiation.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

While perusing the crowded aisles (or isles) of my home away from home, Artifacts (an emporium of fine junque at 331 E. Market St.), I noticed a small, vintage-looking box sitting outside in the “free pile.” Inside this box was a rather peculiar looking lamp with two switches towards the bottom — an on/off switch, and one that controlled … ultraviolet or infrared radiation?

This immediately piqued my interest. As a fan of obscure objects and anachronistic devices of all sorts, a radiation-emitting lamp (which, according to the instruction manual, can treat ailments ranging from seasonal depression to muscle fatigue) got me thinking about the lengths to which the hoi polloi go to avoid the (dreaded) winter blues.

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UI Student Government Sen. Amber Crow said the so-called “happy lamps,” which are now offered by University Counseling Service through a checkout process, can greatly improve people’s mood during the dreary Iowa winters.

“I think a lot of students don’t understand depression. Even if they do understand it a little, it can be hard to realize that winter can exacerbate those symptoms,” Crow said. “That’s why UISG helped start the program to lend [the lamps] to students.”

In an age in which pharmaceuticals play a heavy role in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, there are still many people who choose unconventional routes — whether it is through the use of “happy lamps,” which emit artificial sunlight to mimic the heated bliss of summer, or through the oft-taken periods of excessive napping (in everyday vernacular, hibernation).

I can understand why people don’t like the cold. But I think everyone should enjoy every season they have, because we only have so many on this Earth.

— Teagan Roeder

The aforementioned device, the Sperti SunLamp, has a sort of barbaric, docile kindness to it. Kind, that is, until I foolishly turned it on in an attempt to photograph it and immediately felt my entrails being warped by the immense amount of radiation being pumped through my body.

In the wake of an intense polar attack, some students remain incredibly cynical about the remainder of the season. For some, however, like UI student Teagan Roeder, winter brings something different — a sense of adventure.

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Although he admitted the cold is not always preferable, his love for winter — and building massive snow forts — stems from something much deeper than the feeling of fresh snow beneath his feet.

“It kind of ties into how I’m on the autism spectrum,” he told me on the phone, hours after he finished working concessions at an Iowa men’s basketball game. “The summer is a lot noisier, if that makes sense. I certainly enjoy winter more because the world kind of slows down.”

Roeder said he has built snow forts for as long as he can remember — I could feel the excitement in his voice as he described his plans to build a 10-foot-tall structure out of nothing more than fresh, Iowa snow and a few simple tools.

“I can understand why people don’t like the cold,” he said. “But I think everyone should enjoy every season they have, because we only have so many on this Earth.”

Sentimentality aside, one fact remains — the cold, however unfortunate it may be, is here to stay. So grab the closest happy lamp, take a long nap, slowly sip an overpriced coffee, or like me, plug in a 60-year-old radiation device.