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How the Verilux HappyLight brightened up my gray New York winter

When cloudy, cold weather swept in, this sunlight lamp helped me feel alert and refreshed.
Verilux Standout
The Verilux HappyLight Compact Light is easily maneuverable and shines with a brightness of 10,000 lux.Amazon

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There are trade-offs to living in New York City: the crowds, the tiny, $3,000-a-month apartments, the dark — often damp — subway corridors deep below the surface. But the bitterly cold, cloudy, gray winter is perhaps the city’s most brutal feature.

So I needed a way to find a way to brighten my winters — literally. That’s where the Verilux HappyLight lamp came in.

I grew up in Virginia, where winters were cold but days were often sunny and clear (at least that’s how I remember them). In fact, winter was always my favorite season — by nature I liked the cold more than the area’s swampy summers. But since moving to New York, seemingly always enveloped by cloud cover, I’ve become … less fond of the winter months. Just from talking to friends and acquaintances, I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. One of the first things someone told me when I moved here was that everyone is deliriously happy in a New York spring because the winter is so terrible.

I’d normally talk about my purchasing process here, but there really was none. When my partner and I moved in together, we just found it in our gigantic pile of stuff — whether it had been given to one of us as a present or we’d bought it and forgotten about it, it was already there, ready to plug in. Eventually, when I worked or when we sat on the couch to watch TV, we closed the blinds to keep the gray natural light out and essentially replace the dreary winter sun with our Verilux light.

And we felt better after we started using it. The light was bright but not blinding, and it filled our small living room, making it feel sunny even when I had the shutters down.

To be clear, I haven’t been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, though the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies say light therapy has been shown to be effective in treating SAD and other conditions. But I can say that the Verilux brought a little extra (artificial) sunshine into my life, swept away the grayness of New York winters and improved my mood.

Verilux HappyLight Compact Light

The main thing I’d recommend about this therapy lamp is how small and maneuverable it is. The lens is 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches, and the lamp weighs 1.5 pounds, so it isn’t something we have to park in one corner of the room. I could move it to the living room when I sat on the couch, to my desk when I was working or even to my kitchen countertop without much of a hassle. When we moved to another apartment a year ago, it packed up easily and didn’t take up much space.

The light shines with a brightness of 10,000 lux, plugs into the wall and has a power button in the back. According to Verilux, the light contains no UV radiation and “has passed internationally recognized safety tests for vision.” It has never felt too bright, and I feel more aware and attentive, especially during working hours, when I use it.

Other sun lamps to consider

These are some highly rated alternatives to the Verilux that can help guide your search for the best light for you.

Circadian Optics Lattis Decorative Sun Lamp

This lamp from Circadian Optics, a company featured on the entrepreneurial TV show “Shark Tank,” has a different look and feel from similar lamps, with black, rectangular framing resembling a shoji screen. It has three brightness settings and a bulb that, according to the company, lasts up to 50,000 hours. It has a 4.5-star average rating from over 1,000 Amazon reviews.

Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Light Sunlight Lamp

This lamp can angle downward and has two brightness settings, which the company says are for regular “task lighting” and “therapy” lighting. The screen is 16 inches by 13 inches and, according to Carex, both its angle and height can be adjusted. It has a 4.5-star average rating from over 1,700 Amazon reviews.

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