Your skin isn't the only part of your body that needs a regular dose of sunlight -- your brain thrives on the stuff, too.
Just as your skin helps turn sunlight into vitamin D, your brain uses those same bright rays as a cue to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you to feel happy and content.
Lack of sun is why most of us experience the winter blahs at some point -- and for millions of people, it's the direct cause of an annual battle with serious depression.
Now, a new gadget is promising to bring quick and lasting relief to people who suffer from that seasonal affective disorder -- and it works by giving your brain the light it needs to get the serotonin factory producing at mid-summer levels.
The device looks like a set of the earbuds people use for listening to music -- but instead of tiny speakers, these earbuds contain little flashlights with enough power to send a beam of light through the ears and straight into the brain.
Side note: I'm going to be more careful with Q-tips from now on.
Using light to beat SAD is not a new concept. Many people already get relief by staring at a light box. It works -- but it's a pain in the butt: It can take an hour a day, every day, or more to get some relief... and who has that kind of time these days?
That's where the new technique really shines: In one clinical trial, nearly 80 percent of 89 SAD patients who used the earbud flashlights were completely cured with just 12 minutes of treatment a day, according to data presented at the recent International Forum for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Budapest.
Just 12 minutes! If this holds up to further study, this won't just be a breakthrough -- it would revolutionize how we treat SAD.
The only drawback is the price. At around $300, it's more expensive than a lightbox and even pricier than an iPod.
But since it's every bit as portable as a music player, you can plug in on your way to the office and arrive at work each day singing a new -- and happier -- tune.