Beat the Blues with Simple Changes at Home
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can strike anyone at any time, even those who have never experienced it before. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression tied to seasonal changes. It generally begins in the fall and ends in the spring. Now that the days are getting colder and shorter, if you find you’re feeling down, moody, or just out of sorts, try some of these simple home improvements and lifestyle changes to help you break out of that seasonal funk.
Integrate Light Therapy
Also known as phototherapy, light therapy involves an exposure to bright light, ideally within the first hour of waking up each day. “Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Research shows light therapy can be effective for most people in relieving the symptoms of SAD.
The treatment requires daily exposure to a particular intensity of light emitted by a light box stationed a specific distance away from you. Before you purchase a light box, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you familiarize yourself with the variety of features and options available and consult with a doctor to find out which light box would be best for your needs.
Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
In the battle against seasonal affective disorder, taking care of yourself—including getting a good amount of quality sleep—goes a long way. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try maintaining a regular sleep schedule and make sure your sleep space is comfortable and set at a pleasant temperature. Also consider purchasing room-darkening curtains to keep any street light out as well as cozy bedding and aromatherapy candles or diffusers to help you catch some Z’s.
Find Space to Exercise and Eat Right
Don’t forget to exercise regularly and eat well throughout the year. Good food habits can help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase the symptoms of SAD, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, staying fit can give a boost to your mood and self-esteem. Stock your pantry and fridge with healthful, easily accessible foods so you won’t be tempted to grab comfort foods and snacks, which too often aren’t as good for you. It’s also a smart idea to set up a designated exercise area in your home, whether in the basement, a guest room, or even outside, depending on the weather.
Lighten Up Every Room
During the daytime, get as much natural light into your home as possible. Open those blinds and curtains, and move your work space or sitting area closer to a window so you can enjoy the sunshine. Trim back tree branches that block light, and consider investing in skylights to brighten a dark room in your home.
Use Outdoor Spaces Year-Round
“For some people, increased exposure to sunlight can help improve symptoms of SAD,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. Try going for a walk during your lunch break to get some fresh air and sunlight. If you can’t get out for long periods, try shorter, 5- to 10-minute bouts outside to get some vitamin D. If the weather is mild, give your patio furniture some use this winter and sit outside for 10 minutes or so.
Grab a Paint Roller
Color can have an impact on your mood, so if you’re up for a simple home improvement that can help with seasonal affective disorder, paint a room. True Value offers a color psychology guide on the company’s website to help you choose the right color for your mood. Yellows foster happiness and optimism, while reds help with confidence, excitement, and energy. Greens can be calming, while oranges can bring a sense of vibrancy and enthusiasm.
Introduce a New Hobby
If you’re feeling down, try doing things that make you feel better. Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests watching a movie, tending to a garden (or a few houseplants), or engaging in other activities that make you happy. Not sure where to start? “Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better,” notes Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Hygge is a characteristic of Danish culture that focuses on coziness and comfort. When you’re stuck inside during the winter months and feeling a bit blue, embracing aspects of hygge at home can help. Light your favorite scented candle, take a hot bath, or relax with a book in a snug nook in your home.
Rearrange Your Home
Try rearranging your furniture in your living room, bedroom, or home office to make your space feel fresh and new. If possible, the American Psychiatric Association suggests moving your primary sitting area—whether it be in your home office or living room—closer to a window so you can get more sunlight during the day. Just remember, exposure to UV light from the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, so first talk to your doctor about the risks and the benefits.
Add Music or Artwork
Mind-body techniques like yoga or meditation can also help sufferers cope with seasonal affective disorder. The Mayo Clinic even suggests art therapy or music as a way of combating SAD. Set up a comfy spot in your home where you can listen to your favorite songs, flip through a book of your favorite works of art, or maybe even create a little art of your own.
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