At Hotwire Online Coffee House in West Seattle, they want to wake you up with more than just caffeine. Owner Lora Swift has installed what she calls a Helios Bar, named after the Greek god of the sun. She’s set up light boxes that are supposed to help combat SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“Kind of like that warm and happy feeling you get when you’re outside in the sun,” Lora said. “Now what we’re dealing with is the short days of winter. So we thought we better bring a little sunshine inside with our full spectrum lights.”
Anyone who comes in and buys a coffee or tea can take a seat in front of a light box and soak in a little artificial sunshine.
“It’s exactly like vitamin D. So what happens as we go through the dark of winter, our serotonin levels really start to decrease. What vitamin D does, it gives you that serotonin boost on the skin. It increases the happiness chemical.”
It’s also healthier than natural sunlight.
“You get all the benefits of natural sunlight, all the vitamin D. There are no harmful effects, like UV rays, or anything.”
Our very own KIRO Radio anchor, Kim Shepard, keeps one on her desk during the long, dark Seattle fall and winter. And spring.
“It was not a huge difference but I did notice that before I was using it I would feel really sluggish. By two or three o’clock I would feel like I was falling asleep at my desk. But after I started using it for a few weeks I just felt a little bit more alert and I wanted to go to bed at a normal time instead of two or three o’clock. I just had a little bit of help getting through those winter months.”
The light boxes at Hotwire are set up next to their desktop computers because despite the invasion of the Smartphones, they are still an Internet cafe. I didn’t know those still existed!
“People still really enjoy the convenience of a desktop computer,” Lora said. “We have a printer as well so people can print their tickets off. I believe we may be the last Internet cafe left in Seattle.”
My Internet search found one other Internet cafe in the city, but still! A true rarity!
Anyway, back to the lights, it seems like you need to use them every day to feel a difference in mood and energy, but Lora says you don’t have to use them for long.
“Fifteen minutes a day. I did some research via the Mayo Clinic and some other online sources. Fifteen minutes a day, preferably in the morning, but if you can’t do morning then come in during the evening and get a little bit of happiness light on you.”