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In a world where the pressures of modern life can often weigh us down, mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD have become increasingly prevalent. While many people benefit from treatments like medication in conjuction with therapy, often times that benefit is realized for a short term period with long term side effects. Because of this, people suffering from depression are searching for help outside of traditional medicine and turning to complementary therapies that can offer additional support. One such therapy that’s gaining attention is red light therapy, a non-invasive and scientifically backed technique originally developed for its benefits in skin rejuvenation and weight loss. Surprisingly, recent research suggests that red light therapy holds promise in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. Our clients at New Beginnings Baltimore have reported substantial, life-changing improvement in mood with regular red light treatment. In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind red light therapy and explore how it may contribute to improving mental well-being.

Understanding Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, involves exposing the skin to low-intensity red or near-infrared light wavelengths. Unlike the harmful UV rays, red light therapy utilizes wavelengths between 620 to 750 nanometers, which penetrate the skin without causing damage. Initially, this therapy gained popularity for its cosmetic benefits, including reducing wrinkles, promoting collagen production, and improving skin texture. However, researchers soon began to uncover a wide variety of health applications, including mental health.

The Science Behind the Magic

To comprehend how red light therapy may benefit mental health, we must delve into the biological mechanisms at play. At a cellular level, mitochondria are the powerhouses responsible for producing energy. Red and near-infrared light have been shown to enhance mitochondrial function, increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for cellular energy. This heightened energy production can lead to a cascade of positive effects throughout the body and brain.

  1. Neurotransmitter Balance: Depression and anxiety often stem from imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine that are exacerbated by our stressful environment. Studies have indicated that red light therapy may help regulate these neurotransmitters, potentially improving mood and reducing anxiety. Unlike drug therapies that target specific neurotransmitters, red light therapy targets the overall nervous system.
  2. Reduction in Inflammation: Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression and anxiety. Red light therapy has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, which could contribute to alleviating these conditions. Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety also have physical pain due to inflammation, and red light therapy can address both concerns.
  3. Enhanced Blood Flow: Insufficient blood flow to the brain is associated with cognitive and mood disorders. Red light therapy can improve blood circulation, ensuring the brain receives an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. This method of action also improves mobility and athletic performance.
  4. Neurogenesis: The creation of new brain cells, known as neurogenesis, plays a crucial role in mental health. Emerging evidence suggests that red light therapy may stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a brain region vital for emotional regulation.

Clinical Evidence

At New Beginnings we have have many clients continue treatment after weight loss due to reported transformational mood improvements. Many clients have said red light therapy was the most effective treatment they have tried for mental health, even after years of talk therapy, drug therapy, and even therapies like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Red light therapy is accessible in that clients do not have to have a prescription from a doctor or work through a bureacratic system to get an appointment. It is worth noting that antidepressants tend to have modest effects, performing about as well or slightly better than placebo in the short term with decreased effects in the long term. However, patients tend to remain on antidepressants for many years without seeing substantial benefits.

While red light therapy’s potential benefits for depression and anxiety are still being explored by research scientist, several studies have yielded promising results:

  1. A 2019 article in the journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that participants with major depressive disorder who received transcranial red and near-infrared light therapy showed significant improvements in depressive symptoms.
  2. A 2019 study in the Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine, and Laser Surgery journal investigated the effects of whole-body red light therapy on patients with generalized anxiety disorder. The results suggested a reduction in anxiety symptoms and an overall improvement in quality of life.
  3. Animal studies have also shown that red light therapy can reduce depressive-like behaviors in rodents. These studies highlight the potential impact of this therapy on mood disorders.
  4. Behavior and Brain Functions published a 2009 study that found significant psychological improvements in patients with depression and anxiety who were exposted to near-infrared (NIR) light photobiomodulation (PBM).

Using Red Light Therapy for Mental Well-Being

If you’re interested in exploring red light therapy as a complementary approach to managing depression and anxiety, here are some key considerations:

  1. Consult a Professional: Before beginning any new therapy, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional or therapist to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. We at New Beginnings are not licensed mental health care practitioners, but overall wellness and health coaching experts. We see the body and brain as one system. You should continue to discuss medical concerns with medical professionals.
  2. Choose the Right Device: Red light therapy devices are available for home use, but it’s essential to select a reputable product that emits the correct wavelengths and intensities. Seek guidance from healthcare providers or experienced users. At New Beginnings Baltimore, we use the highest standards of equipment in the industry to generate the most effective results for our clients. Home equipment and equipment from other wellness offices widely varies in strength and efficacy. Make sure you are consulting with experts in red light therapy and selecting the best value for chances of success. We care about your well being and are here to help.
  3. Consistency is Key: Like any therapy, red light therapy requires consistency. Regular sessions may be needed to experience significant benefits. This is not a surgical procedure but a regular treatment similar to therapy or medication, where results will subside if you chose to discontinue treatment.
  4. Combine Therapies: Red light therapy can complement traditional treatments like therapy and medication. It is also vitally important for your mental and physical health to continue exercise routines, maintain a healthy diet, and maintain healthy social interactions. There are many supplements that help improve nutritional balance and cognitive function as well. Red light therapy should not be considered a standalone solution but rather a part of a holistic approach to mental well-being.


While red light therapy’s potential to alleviate depression and anxiety is an exciting prospect, it’s essential to approach it with realistic expectations and in consultation with healthcare professionals. The scientific evidence thus far suggests that red light therapy can play a valuable role in promoting mental wellness, alongside traditional treatments. Our clients are thrilled at the surprising impact red light has on their mood. As researchers continue to explore this promising field, the future may hold even more insights into how harnessing the power of light can brighten the lives of those living with these challenging conditions. There are no known side effects of red light therapy and our clients have not reported any, so there is very little risk to trying red light therapy and evaluating your own results. If your are suffering from depression or mental health concerns, we encourage you to call New Beginnings today and schedule an appointment.

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