No excuses, just exclusives.
How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder With Design

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder With Design

While there’s plenty to look forward to this time of year, these colder, darker months can also take a toll on your energy and emotions. As you get your home ready for fall and winter, consider preparing your mind, too. These mood-boosting design tips can help you feel physically and psychologically better in your own space, especially if you experience seasonal affective disorder. 

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Defined as a type of depression, seasonal affective disorder symptoms typically appear in the fall and resolve in the spring. As many as 1 in 5 people may have a mild form of the “winter blues” and notice feelings of fatigue, low mood, or sleep problems when the seasons change. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a real condition that affects millions of people, although some may not know they have it.  If you observe a change in your disposition during these months, consider revamping your living spaces to help boost your mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes

While scientists don’t fully understand what causes this seasonal disorder, it may be related to reduced levels of sunlight and a disruption to your normal behaviors during a 24-hour period.

Many people with SAD live further north of the equator, where daylight hours decrease in the winter. The condition is diagnosed more often in women than men, and it’s more common in younger adults. Fortunately, seasonal affective disorder is treatable with care from your doctor and by adding vibrancy and warmth to your living spaces.

How to Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Your day-to-day environment plays a huge role in how you feel. As the fall to winter months approach, transition your living and work spaces to be more supportive of seasonal affective disorder self-care and mood-boosting activities. Even small changes, like tidying up clutter or opening blinds and shades, can make a difference. Other tips to manage seasonal affective disorder include:

Invite Interaction

When the weather makes you feel like hibernating in your own cozy cocoon, look for creative ways to stay socially connected with your family and friends. This could mean temporarily relocating your at-home workstation to a more central location in the house, or turning your porch or patio into a multi-season hangout space to access outdoor light.

When repurposing a space, try decorating posts with strands of all-season string lights, drape throw blankets over your Adirondack chairs, and welcome neighbors with the warm glow of a propane patio heater or clean-burning fire pit set. Finish off your new outdoor room with colorful doormats and outdoor area rugs in gingham check, paisley, or novelty holiday designs for an inviting feel. Offer a classic outdoor game like tumbling timbers, 4-in-a-row, or cornhole.

Get Moving

Exercise is a highly recommended seasonal affective disorder treatment to help increase your heart rate and release feel-good endorphins. While it’s common for cold temperatures and snow to zap your motivation to walk outside or get to the gym, some changes to your indoor space can help you start moving. Some quick options include swapping out your office chair for an exercise ball, or sneaking a workout in during your lunch break — even small corners of your home have room for resistance bands or a kettlebell.

If you have extra space, such as a rarely used guest room, turn it into a revitalizing yoga retreat complete with incense and inspiring sculptures to stimulate multiple senses. Mix live and artificial plants to bring lush vitality to the room and lend a boho studio vibe. Also consider setting up compact cardio equipment close to a window to soak up natural light as you burn calories.

Add Aromatherapy

Diffusing your favorite scent may also help lessen the symptoms of seasonal depression by providing both uplifting and calming effects. While research is ongoing, essential oils show promise in influencing the area of the brain responsible for controlling your mood and internal clock. Look to citrus scents such as bergamot, sweet orange, grapefruit, and lime to help you stay more alert and focused, or lavender to decrease stress and aid relaxation. Add essential oils to an aromatherapy humidifier at home, or take a portable mini USB diffuser with you in the car or wherever you go.

Get Quality Sleep

Because SAD symptoms often include insomnia or sleep problems, it’s important to transform your bedroom to an inviting oasis of rest. To make your space as quiet and cozy as possible, cover windows with blackout curtains to keep the room nice and dark. Outfit your bed with a luxurious mattress topper or a temperature-controlled comforter to help you settle in at night, or try a super-soft weighted blanket that provides deep pressure stimulation to promote better quality sleep. Physical comforts and nightly rituals, such as indulging in a warm bath or listening to music or white noise, can help improve your ability to fall and stay asleep.

Stick to a Schedule

Sleep experts also recommend that people with seasonal affective disorder keep a consistent sleep schedule — even on weekends or vacations. For help getting up in the morning, consider adding a gentle wake or mood light alarm clock to your nightstand. Instead of starting your day with a jolt, these dawn simulators gradually change the color and brightness of your bedroom to naturally tell your body it’s time to wake up. Activating the brain at a certain time every day can help restore your normal circadian rhythm in the winter months and promote feelings of well-being.

What Type of Light Is Used for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Yellow light (the color of spring flowers and the sun) has been clinically used to treat seasonal affective disorder and depression symptoms. At the end of summer, you might try switching your overhead ambient and desk lamp light bulbs to warmer, 2700 Kelvin or cheerful yellow-hued LEDs. A seasonal affective disorder light therapy lamp may also help give you a daily boost. These specialty lamps, also called light boxes, are designed to simulate natural outdoor light, and they make your environment brighter with the push of a button.

How Do Seasonal Affective Disorder Lamps Work?

While there are many types of light boxes, the best seasonal affective disorder lamps are equipped with a therapeutic light of 10,000 lux and a UV-filtered color temperature of 5,300K. This type of light is thought to promote positive chemical changes in the brain that lift your mood, energy, and productivity.

Light therapy lamps are different from other table lamps in that they’re typically used for about 20 to 30 minutes within the first hour of waking up in the morning. For the most flexibility, look for sleek, compact designs that easily travel to any room of your home or office. Set up on your nightstand, vanity, kitchen counter, or desk, these lamps — combined with other self-care measures — can help you achieve a sunnier state of mind.