The quote above is all well and good for individuals untouched by seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, but if you’re one of the 10 to 20 percent of the population that suffers from mild SAD, the winter months can knock you off your A game. Fall and winter SAD symptoms may include irritability, tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with other people and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you suffer from the winter blues, your home probably serves as a hideout in which you spend your weeks waiting for spring to arrive. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s not enough room here to include every way my home has adapted to help me through these rough patches. But the following has enabled me to bust through the seasonal inertia that weighs heavily on my emotions, as well as my body, during the shorter and colder days of winter.
Strive for Visual Variety
First of all, in the case of mild SAD, getting out of a bluesy funk on any given day can be as simple as a shift in perspective. Switching the visual scene within a house can cause a slight jolt to the mind. That jolt, as well as a change in routine, allows the mind to see things differently, from a different angle.
This happened last winter when I chose a spot in my home where I could sit by a big window and soak up the sun on a clear day. This little change was so effective that I decided to convert the room into a small home office.
Note: Seasonal affective disorder, or winter blues, is mild and temporary. I’m sharing ideas that have helped me stay active and engaged throughout the winter months so that I don’t hide out and retreat from social activity. If you suffer from a more serious form of depression, please see your doctor.
With that startling change came a rush of excitement and a shift in my outlook as I made plans to transform and use the space in a new way. It felt fresh, almost like being in a different home. Seeing rooms in the house from a new perch is surprisingly uplifting and inspiring.
For me, a lack of sunlight greatly contributes to my seasonal malaise. Now, spending an hour or so reading or writing on a sunny day in my new little office feels almost as invigorating as spending a summer day outside. Even on cloudy days, there’s enough light coming in the window that I can feel the beneficial effects.
Another guaranteed winter mood lifter for me has been forcing myself to plan something fun with friends at my home.
As the winter weeks wear on, a byproduct of SAD is that social interactions can drop off.Once this happens, it may feel like a chore to get out and have fun. If that’s the case, then just bring the fun home.
Why not plan a summer-style cookout, but do it indoors? When my kids were young and cabin fever had them bouncing off the walls, we’d create a beach party inside. I’d crank up the heat a bit and let them run around the house in their bathing suits.
We designated spots for the “beach” and our “picnic” area. I’d put on surf music and even let them hang ten on one of my all-time favorite pieces of furniture, a solid wood oval-shaped (durable) coffee table — very surfboard-esque. They loved it, and I loved it too.
Before guests arrive, you might want to push furniture aside to create a makeshift dance floor. After dinner, turn up the music and let the moves begin. Nothing chases away the blues like an hour or two of dancing with friends.
Using the remaining weeks of winter to do something practical and nice for your beloved home does wonders for your outlook too. Planning a minor, low-cost project pays off in both the short and long term.
One of the easiest and most inexpensive home improvement projects is painting a room. Sure, freshly painted rooms are a delight, but the real benefits come from the momentum that comes from that one simple project. Fresh paint sparks more ideas — maybe new bedding or a new rug, organizing projects for closets and drawers, and loads of unused clothes to donate to charity.
This domino effect can easily inspire a path of purposeful projects that create a sense of excitement about sprucing up your home.
A trick that’s worked for me is to plan a party first, then put a list together of what needs to be done around the house. The excitement about the party will likely carry over to the house
Your home becomes the tool being used to facilitate a whirlwind of positive actions. Previewing paint chips may be all it takes to get started, but just start somewhere. That tiny shift in action has often been all I needed to get me through the remaining weeks of winter with a fresh outlook.
As I grew in strength to stretch beyond my old beliefs about winter, my home was graciously ready to help. Like an underappreciated loyal friend, it showed me that it had much more to offer. It was as if a light had been switched on: I suddenly saw my home as the most useful tool I had to facilitate the change I desired so much.
And like a good friend, my home is always able to bend, accommodate and let me dress it up, providing space for family gatherings as well as cozy moments of reading and reflection. It’s never confined to a fixed function — rather, it continues to offer flexibility and infinite possibilities.
Your turn: How has your home helped boost your mood? Tell us and share your photos in the Comments.