Beat the Blues With Simple Changes at Home
Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is thought to be the most depressing day of the year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), however, 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. Even though the days are gradually getting longer, you may find that you’re feeling down, moody, or just out of sorts. Take the opportunity this Blue Monday to try some of these simple solutions 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 the user. Before purchasing a light box, the Mayo Clinic suggests familiarizing yourself with the variety of features and options available and consulting with a doctor to find out which light box would be best for your needs. (See our researched guide to the best light therapy lamps for the home for some terrific lamp recommendations.)
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 blackout 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 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 soy 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 and 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.
Get a Sunrise Alarm
Waking up early is already difficult for many sleepers, but it’s even harder when the days are shorter in the winter months and the sun hasn’t even risen yet. Sunrise alarm clocks like this one from JALL gently wake sleepers by simulating a sunrise, slowing brightening the room over a set period of time. They’re often also equipped with auditory alerts to ensure users don’t oversleep.
Research published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in June 2020 says that the use of essential oils as aromatherapy could potentially provide a slight antidepressant effect. Try it out for yourself by choosing oils in scents that lift your mood. Invest in a high-quality essential oil diffuser, which will break down the oils’ molecules and disperse them into the air in your living space.
Indoor plants provide many practical benefits aside from simply brightening up a room. They work to reduce stress, and a study out of Norway in 2007 showed that office workers who were surrounded by plants were not only more productive but also saw an increase in their moods. This effect was amplified even further during the winter months. Try introducing some low-maintenance houseplants to your home to see if they have a psychological effect.
Install Smart Light Bulbs
One of the biggest contributing factors to SAD is a lack of access to natural sunlight. One way to boost your mood is to invest in smart color-changing light bulbs, such as these bulbs by Philips Hue. The bulbs can mimic thousands of different colors in the light spectrum including bright daylight to help you feel more alert and energized during the day. They can also be dimmed to a cozy amber hue in the evenings to help your body wind down for bedtime.
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