MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We know the winters in Minnesota can be long. And it’s not just the cold weather that gets some people down, it’s the lack of sunshine.

Seasonal Affective Disorder — or SAD — is a condition that makes people feel tired and depressed.

Two women in Duluth have created what they call a “mobile rescue unit,” and say it’s equipped to counter the effects of limited exposure to the sun.

WCCO’s Angela Davis went inside to see how this light therapy bus works.

When the bus rolls into town, it’s kind of hard to miss. On Tuesday, the Sun Spot headed to Hibbing Community College. And once it arrived on campus curious visitors took a seat and met sisters Katherine and Sue York, who call themselves “The Sol Sisters.”

There was a lot to take in: bright colors, upbeat music, snacks, games, and lots of lights. After sitting on the bus for the recommended 30 minutes, Hibbing Community College students told us they noticed a difference.

“You feel a lot better, you feel happier because there are bright colors, it’s bright, there’s a lot of fun stuff. Cute little lights all over the place,” Emilee Smith said.

“It was relaxing and joyful,” Julie Ann Rutter said.

The York sisters installed light therapy boxes on the ceiling and sides of the bus. They’re designed to boost the body’s ability to produce hormones and chemicals that improve energy level and mood.

“You are gaining serotonin. And you are gaining Vitamin D,” Katherine York said.

Lack of enough sun can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder. Doctors say about 6 percent of Americans, mostly in northern climates, are affected by SAD. Another 14 percent suffer from a lesser form known as winter blues.

“You see anxiety, depression, people craving carbs, wanting to sleep,” Katherine York said.

Sue York has struggled with SAD most of her adult life.

“I have been envisioning, for as long as I can remember, a bus, a mobile rescue unit, so that I could bring light and community and happiness to my neighborhood,” she said.

It costs $5 to sit on the bus for 30 minutes. They also sell snack boxes with foods rich in vitamins.

If you’re concerned about your Vitamin D level, you can take a simple blood test at your doctor’s office.


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