Seasonal affective disorder — appropriately known as SAD — is a real thing, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering through what used to be called the “winter blues.” Sleeping too much or not enough, overeating, low energy, and moodiness often come as the days shorten and the season chills.
There are ways to brighten your mood and your living space that can help (in fact, even having a project can help). Here are a few ideas:
Green things. Bring the outside inside. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are living mood-lifters that are low maintenance like peace lily, viper’s bowstring hemp or snake plant, spider plants, bamboo, and others. Not only do plants remind us that spring will return, but they release oxygen and purify the air. Check out a local plant shop to find what leafy or prickly friends might work best in your space, or in your lifestyle.
Windows, curtains, and blinds. Even though, if you have SAD, you may want to just curl up in a dark room, it’s important to let the sunshine in. If you can add a window, or install a larger one, do it.
Light-colored, lightweight curtains and Venetian blinds can protect your privacy and still allow you to sit in a sunny spot. Letting the bright, warm rays hit your face for only 15 minutes a day (keeping your eyes half-closed, so you can see the sunlight on your eyelashes, according to ancient Ayurvedic custom) can raise your serotonin levels and your mood.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bay window, add a bench or build a custom cushioned seat so you can warm yourself while enjoying the sun’s rays.
Create a sacred space. No matter how messy the rest of your house may be, create a space where you can honor yourself and sit in peace (no, not your bed!). Whether it’s a desk, a corner of your room, or a shelf on a bookcase, place items of sentimental value, an image that resonates with you, a bell or chime, and a candle (whether real or electric). Ring the bell, light the candle, read a paragraph from a meaningful inspirational book, and give yourself a minute to count your blessings each morning before rushing out to work.
Paint. Consider repainting rooms that may need a freshening with a white coat or a very light pastel yellow. It gives the impression of sunlight even on gloomy days.
Air and water. Make sure you are getting fresh air and clean water in your home. Have your heating system professionally checked and cleaned, keep a dehumidifier in your basement to stop mold (remember to empty it), have your water tested, and consider a water purifying system, whether it’s on your kitchen tap or a whole-house system.
Exercise. This doesn’t have to always be a full-on workout. Light stretching and just simply moving your body releases endorphins and combats depression. Join a local gym, buy a treadmill or a mini-bouncer, or just put on music and dance around your house.
Light therapy. There are full-spectrum lights which are centered around human health. There are even light boxes and lamps specifically designed to help SAD sufferers. Ask your local lighting expert about which bulbs might work for you.
Declutter. You’ve been saying you were going to do it. Now’s the time. As Marie Kondo says, get rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Have a yard sale, or give your extras away to local charities. Create a clean living space. Ask for help from your friends or treat yourself to a housecleaner or a professional organizer.
Vitamin D. Consult with your physician about taking Vitamin D3 supplements. When the sun spends less time in the sky, we produce less of this mood elevator.
Obviously, these are just temporary fixes. If you suffer from serious depression, discuss it with your doctor. But if your mood changes with the coming of winter, try some of these lifehacks, and remember, winter always turns to spring.