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5 Steps for S.A.D-Proofing Your Home to Shake the Winter Blues


Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly Home hacks - mug and blanket next to a window

The arrival of the autumn and winter seasons marks the onset of cold temperatures, less daylight and higher energy bills. For many, it's also common to struggle with mental health as the gloomier seasons arrive. This can often be due to a lack of sun exposure and more time spent indoors due to bad weather, resulting in reduced fresh air and exercise.

While the onset of "winter blues" or "winter depression" may be mild and fleeting for some of us, you may find that your emotional well-being suffers throughout the colder months and only eases when the weather begins to brighten. If this sounds like you, you could have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)?

S.A.D. is a type of depression that comes and goes depending on seasonal changes. Though S.A.D. can occur in spring or summer months for some people, it's often more severe in winter.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder Caused By?

It is not completely clear what causes S.A.D, but it's often linked to a lack of sun exposure during shorter days in the colder months when we have fewer hours of sunlight.

How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Affect Your Life?

The symptoms of S.A.D. may include depression or low mood, lack of interest in things you usually enjoy, difficulty sleeping, feeling sluggish or agitated, low energy or restlessness and difficulty concentrating, to name a few. These symptoms can affect all areas of your life including your relationships and at work. Recognising their influence is key to finding effective solutions.

How Do I Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If you have S.A.D. or your mood tends to drop in the autumn and winter months, the first step towards finding a solution is speaking to a healthcare professional about ways to manage and treat your symptoms. There is a list of helpful resources at the end of this blog post about how to initiate getting help.

How Organising Your Home Can Help Shake the Winter Blues

organised kitchen - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Once you have sufficiently explored and implemented tools to treat your symptoms alongside the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, you can start looking at how you can organise your home to support you through this season.

Our environment can have a huge impact on our mental health. During these months when we spend more time indoors, the home is our main environment, and when it is in disarray, it's common for us to feel overwhelmed or experience low mood. And the same is true vice versa: our homes can reflect what is going on internally, acting as visual representations of how able we are to cope with cleaning, organising and general upkeep. So it makes sense to implement good cleaning habits and decorate our space in a way that suits our style.


In this blog post, we will explore some simple ways in which you can improve your home's atmosphere and functionality so it supports your mental health.

Step 1: Get the Lighting Right - Mood Lighting and How to Keep Your Home Bright Without Wasting Electricity

bright living room - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

We've spoken about how lighting affects mood a lot here on the L&L blog. Research shows that not having enough light in a room during daylight hours can disrupt our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is our body's internal clock which is largely influenced by light exposure. When this internal clock is disrupted it can cause sleep issues and this can have a huge impact on mood.

Warm, soft or ambient lighting has been shown to help us relax, while brighter, cool lighting can help with focus and productivity. Optimising lighting can have a big impact on your mental health, and if your home is short of natural light there are ways to manipulate lighting to suit your needs.


I know what you might be thinking - keeping lights on for extended periods can rack up to a big energy bill, especially as energy costs continue to rise, so I have included some inexpensive tips and tricks, along with hacks that won't increase your energy bill:


Natural Lighting to Reduce Depression and Increase Energy:

bright dining room - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Overall, natural sunlight is unmatched when it comes to improving mood. Spending 10-30 (possibly more if you have darker skin) minutes in midday sunlight several times per week is in the range to reap the health benefits without adverse effects, such as sunburn. So make a point to spend time in your garden or go out for a walk to improve your mood and reap physical health benefits.

But when natural sunlight is lessened during the colder months, or even if it's just not an option (perhaps if you work from home or your home does not receive much natural light) you might consider investing in a light therapy lamp, sometimes called a S.A.D lamp, as they are potentially beneficial for those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder in the autumn and winter.


You can maximise natural light by removing obstructions from around your windows to let in as much brightness as possible or by placing mirrors around the room to reflect natural daylight.


Do S.A.D. Lamps Actually Work?

Light therapy boxes and S.A.D. lamps, work by mimicking natural sunlight through the use of a full-spectrum daylight bulb. These bulbs produce light that covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including all colours and wavelengths present in natural sunlight. This light is said to help your body produce less melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and more serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).

Though not a cure, some research suggests S.A.D. lamps contribute to the reduction of symptoms that often come alongside depression such as tiredness, trouble sleeping and anxiety. Before buying, you'll want to do your research on whether a light therapy lamp or light box is right for you, therefore you may find Mayo Clinic's article on Choosing a Light Box helpful.


Lighting to Increase Productivity and Focus:

bright lighting office - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Bright light in cool hues can help you to feel awake and energised, which therefore helps with concentration. Early in the day and when the sun is at its highest point, the natural light that comes into your home is likely to be cooler in colour temperature and brighter, so spending time in east-facing rooms is ideal, but not always possible.


You can replace your lightbulbs with ones in cool tones, or use products such as colour-changing LED strips that can interchange between cool light colours such as cool white, blue or purple and place these in areas where you spend time in the earlier part of the day or where you work, such as your office. This can boost focus and may even help to regulate your circadian rhythm.

Ambient Lighting to Provide Calm and Relaxation:

ambient lighting candles and fairy lights - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Ambient lighting, sometimes called "mood lighting" provides a warm and soft glow. Things like candles, warm fairy lights and warm lightbulbs can help to produce a warm ambience. Furthermore, layering small lighting sources throughout a room provides a soft glow which can promote relaxation.


An example of light layering is a candle on a coffee table, a small table lamp in the corner and string lights over a mantlepiece or picture frame. This soft, darker lighting is best used in the evening to help you relax and sleep better.

Lighting Solutions to Save Money:

Lighting your home is expensive. It can account for around 10% of your energy bill. Using energy-saving lightbulbs can help reduce energy consumption by up to 80%!


Furthermore, some energy experts say rechargeable lamps use bulbs that do not get as hot as wired ones, and therefore tend to use less electricity and work out cheaper. The same can also be true for plug-in lights vs wired lights. Because you are more in control of when and where to use them, plug-in lights like lamps and floor lights can help to save some pennies when used in place of wired lighting fixtures!

Nonetheless, it should be noted that whether lamps with rechargeable bulbs or plug-in lights will actually save you money or not largely depends on the frequency of use, the cost to purchase and wattage.

Besides electric lighting, you can make use of candles or oil lamps in the evening to save energy.

Circadian Lighting Systems:

A circadian lighting system mimics natural daylight's changing intensity and colour temperature throughout the day. It uses smart LED lights to transition from cool, bluish tones in the morning to warm, reddish hues in the evening, aligning with our circadian rhythms. This helps regulate sleep-wake patterns, energy levels, and mood.

Home-integrated, automatic circadian lighting systems can be expensive when installed by a professional, but you may be able to get similar benefits with colour-changing lightbulbs.

Step 2: Have an Autumn Clean and Declutter Your Space

cleaning tips - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Due to the chilly weather, the colder months often see us retreating indoors. With the arrival of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and various seasonal gatherings, our homes become hubs of entertainment and social gatherings. Preparing your home for this bustling season by decluttering, rearranging and organising can help you feel clearer in your mind and less overwhelmed.


Here's where you can start:


Declutter and Organise:

If you look around your home and all you see are unorganised documents, expired packaged goods in the kitchen cupboards, empty cosmetics bottles in the bathroom and unwanted clothing, books or knickknacks, it's time to ditch the unnecessary items that are just taking up precious space. Sort through all of your items and categorise and store what you want to keep in a way that makes them easy to access and discard or donate what you don't want. Your home will feel more spacious and you will feel the better for it!


Ask Your Family for Help:

There's no need to embark on a deep cleaning task alone! Enlist the help of other members of your household and delegate tasks. With a bit of teamwork, you'll be in a clean, clutter-free space in no time.


Deep Clean:

Dirt and grime can creep up on you, especially when you have children or pets. Paying some extra attention to the often ignored or forgotten tasks will give your home that squeaky-clean feeling.


Examples: wipe down skirting boards, hoover behind the sofa, wash the windows and windowsills, clean light switches, door handles, clean mirrors, deep clean carpets, hoover under your bed, etc. For a comprehensive deep cleaning list, see Home Made Simple's article.


Seasonal Wardrobe Rotation:

As the seasons change, consider rotating your wardrobe. Store summer clothing away and bring out your autumn and winter attire. This will create space in your wardrobe and make it easier to access weather-appropriate clothing.


If you want to declutter your home to create space and brightness, you might like this article: 13 Tips and Tricks to Make Small Rooms Feel and Look Bigger and Brighter

Step 3: Get Cosy - Cheap Ways to Stay Warm at Home in the Autumn and Winter

cosy bed with blankets in the autumn - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

Being cold can negatively impact your mental health, so it's important to keep yourself sufficiently warm for the sake of both your physical and mental needs. Sufficiently heating your home throughout this season with electric heaters and central heating is expensive, but there are lots of ways to keep yourself warm without turning up the thermostat!


Hot Water Bottles:

Hot water bottles stay warm for hours and are very helpful when clothing alone isn't keeping you warm enough.


Be Aware of Draughts:

A draught can come from any small crack, vent or gap between your home and the cold outdoors, allowing the heat from inside to escape. Identifying where draughts are coming from and blocking them with some kind of draught-blocker can be extremely helpful in locking heat. See the Energy Saving Trust article for more tips on blocking out draughts and what you can use to do so.


Move Furniture Away From Radiators:

Having large furniture in front of your radiator can prevent heat from radiating around the room. Moving your furniture around so your radiators are free of obstructions will help you to make the most of your central heating.


Create a Cosy Environment:

Having a cosy atmosphere can help reduce stress and improve your mood. Fill your home with soft furnishings such as blankets and pillows, put rugs down on hard floors and invest in thicker curtains to lock in heat.


Layering Clothes:

Wearing lots of layers is more effective at trapping body heat than wearing one thick layer.


Thermal Clothing:

Thermal clothes are specially designed to lock in heat. You can buy things like thermal socks, underwear, vests and leggings to wear under your clothes to keep you extra toasty!

Step 4: Energise the Atmosphere - Fill Your Home With Nature

indoor plants and pumpkins - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

It's well known that having nature inside your home can be very uplifting. If you're finding your home feels drab and lifeless, adding some fresh, natural decor can inject some energy into your space and may improve your mood!


Houseplants:

Indoor plants can help to purify air and add freshness to your home, making them beneficial for your physical and mental health. They add colour and variety to your decor and caring for plants can provide a sense of responsibility which may be beneficial for your sense of purpose.


For a comprehensive guide to choosing houseplants for your home see our article: Ultimate Guide to Houseplant Care & Selecting the Best Plants for Your Home


Fresh Flowers:

The vibrant colours of fresh flower arrangements can be beautifully uplifting. Autumnal flower arrangements will provide that invigorating vibe while matching the seasonal theme. Colourful mums, roses, dahlias, astilbe, asters or any orange-hued petals would work wonderfully to brighten up your home!


Dried Flowers:

While there are still plenty of fresh flowers in season in the colder months, they can become harder to find. Therefore, a dried flower arrangement might be a better option. They often come in hues of beige, orange, brown, cream and yellow which go perfectly with the autumn season and will last throughout the winter.


Pumpkins (for the autumn):

When autumn arrives, you will see pumpkins everywhere! They are available at plenty of supermarkets or you could visit a seasonal pumpkin patch for a possibly wider variety. They come in many different shapes, sizes and colours and make wonderfully rustic autumn decor.


Wintry Foliage (for the winter):

Incorporate evergreen branches like pine, spruce, or fir for a touch of lush greenery to elevate your decor. You could also include red berries from holly or winterberry bushes, adding a pop of colour to your decor. Simply weaving branches together with twine or string can make a beautiful garland to adorn shelves or hang over the mantlepiece.


Wreathes:

A natural wreath is another piece of decor perfect for this season. You can buy wreaths at homeware stores and sometimes florists, or you could have a go at making your own!


Step 5: Utilise Scent

scented candles - Cozy Winter Interior Design with SAD-Friendly home hacks

As the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder, it can be comforting to fill your home with scents that make you feel both cosy and uplifted.


Scents like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove create a sense of warmth, reminiscent of calming Chai tea and gingerbread, while aromas like orange and vanilla provide a sweet and invigorating freshness.

On the other hand, scents like cedar, pine, sandalwood and patchouli provide an earthy freshness, adding depth to your home's atmosphere.

How to Make Your Home Smell Great

There are many ways to naturally fill your home with beautiful scents. These include:


Candles:

Autumnal candles are widely available in homeware stores, or you could even have a go at making some yourself!


Diffusers:

Aromatherapy diffusers are plug-in devices in which you put water and a few drops of your chosen essential oil. When switched on, they emit a subtle scent and don't create any smoke or harmful chemicals. Just make sure you select natural essential oils that are safe to inhale.


Pomander Balls:

These are easy to make and create a natural, fresh and spicy aroma. All you need is a fresh whole orange, whole cloves and (optionally) ribbon for your own DIY Pomander Balls.


Potpourri:

Autumnal potpourri blends are often available at homewares stores. Made from ingredients such as dried plants, flowers, fruits and spices, potpourri is long-lasting and another natural, and often subtle, way to fill your home with beautiful fragrances!


Scents That Boost Your Mood

Research indicates that the inhalation of specific essential oils could potentially offer mental health benefits. While the research shows mixed results, why not try putting some of these scents in an oil burner or aromatherapy diffuser? At the very least your home will smell divine!

  • Lavender: Relaxing - Promotes good sleep and relaxation.

  • Chamomile: Calming - Promotes relaxation and may relieve anxiety and depression

  • Valerian: Calming - Promotes good sleep and may relieve anxiety.

  • Jasmine: Uplifting and Calming - May relieve anxiety without causing sleepiness.

  • Ylang Ylang: Stress Relief - Has some antidepressant qualities and may help to lower stress and anxiety.

  • Clary Sage: Calming - May help to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, easing depression and anxiety. May also provide relief from PMS and menstrual cramps.


Supporting your mental health as we move into autumn is so important, especially if you have been diagnosed with S.A.D. or your mood is easily impacted by weather changes.

By following these tips, you can create an environment that helps you to thrive regardless of how sunny it is outside!


With that said, if you're struggling with your mental health always remember this: you deserve to feel good, you have a right to get help and no problem is too small. Looking after yourself is the kindest thing you can do.


Helpful Resources for Those Affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder or Seasonal Depression:


Disclaimer: The tips and advice provided in this blog post are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice. The author and publisher are not medical professionals and do not provide medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have read in this blog post. The author and publisher are not responsible for any actions or inaction you may take based on the information provided in this blog post.

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