Sunshine brightens economic blues

Dr. Lois Krahn, psychiatry professor at the Mayo Clinic.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BILL RADKE: This weekend, it's time to set your clocks forward for daylight saving. It's an annual harbinger of spring, and maybe it's just what this country needs. Not only are the economy and stock market bumming us out, scientists say the low light of winter can depress us, too. Lois Krahn is a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic. She specializes in light therapy.

Dr. Krahn, the evenings will stay lighter longer now. Is that good for our mental outlook?

DR. LOIS KRAHN: Well we have to be careful. If you get too much light exposure in the evening it can make it difficult to fall asleep. So I'm more interested in light exposure in the morning.

RADKE: So falling back is easier than springing forward?

KRAHN: Well, in a way. It's easier from a sleep standpoint.

RADKE: Oh, so much for the spring forward rally on Wall Street. Doctor, how often are you seeing clients who are depressed about the economy?

KRAHN: Oh, that is a daily event at this point. Many people are worried about the situation they're in now, and worry even more so about what the future may bring.

RADKE: Give me a favorite example, what do they tell you?

KRAHN: Well someone comes in and says they've been working hard and carefully planning for the future and now when they open their mail or check, their online account, they just become very despondent that they're not seeing the returns they expected and they worry about how much worse it's going to become and that can consume them. They really have this dark feeling that follows them as they go throughout their day.

RADKE: You call it a dark feeling, which leads us to your specialty of light therapy. How much can that help?

KRAHN: Well, light therapy can play a role. It's important that it be used appropriately. But for some patients, getting out in the sunshine -- especially earlier in the day -- can be a very real and biologically-significant way to lift their mood, deal with their depression. It can be used in combination with medication or with psychotherapy, although some people use it by itself.

RADKE: Doctor, what have you found most interesting about the sadness and fear our country seems to be experiencing?

KRAHN: Well, it's reality-based and that's what makes it tough. You know, there have been some very significant changes in our economy, so we need people to take this seriously, make appropriate changes in their home budget, but not overreact -- to have some hope that with time this will improve.

RADKE: And get outside more.

KRAHN: Absolutely. To have balance, be physically active, get sunshine -- especially in the morning.

RADKE: Well here's to sunnier days ahead.

KRAHN: Very good.

RADKE: Dr. Louis Krahn is a psychiatry professor at the Mayo Clinic. Doctor, thank you.

KRAHN: You're very welcome.

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