Most desert dwellers welcome the cooler fall and winter temperatures, these few months that have fewer hours of daylight can cause some people to experience seasonal affective disorder. With SAD, people may experience long periods of sadness, energy loss, weight gain, and oversleeping, along with a loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy.
SAD, sometimes called seasonal depression, affects about 5 percent of the adult population. The symptoms are triggered by less sunlight exposure, which lowers serotonin and vitamin D levels. If you are prone to SAD, here are a few things you can do around the home to help boost your mood.
Get the most out of the morning sun
Since we have shorter days, it’s important to get natural sunlight into the home early in the day, according to Dak Kopec, an architectural psychologist, and UNLV professor. He said the hours between 7 and 9 a.m. are ideal for boosting serotonin and vitamin D levels.
So first thing in the morning is to open up the blinds, sunshades, or curtains early in the morning and allow natural light to flood the area as much as possible.
It is also a wonderful time of day to go outdoors to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight. If you don’t want to leave your property, create outdoor spaces to enjoy while exposing you to natural light.
Kopec says, “The intensity of that full-spectrum light is lower in the winter months, so it’s very key for people to get outdoors. Look at those balconies or patios … it may be time to consider new outdoor furniture if it means you’re more likely to go outside in the morning.”
Paint to boost your spirits
Winter may also be a good time to add that accent wall in a bedroom or living area that you have been thinking about. Certain colors that exude warmth and comfort can work well on an accent wall.
Look to oranges and yellow for warmth and nature-based colors such as greens to use on accent walls. For calming yet uplifting colors for the whole room, look at colors that feel tranquil, not too cold or too gray — colors like sage greens, sky blues and lavenders.
The basics of color theory highlight warmer colors like reds, oranges, and yellows as comforting and more energetic while cooler colors like blues, greens, and purples emit tranquility and calm. Color is personal and subjective, so learning what colors boost your mood will go a long way in providing basic foundations for color palettes to assist you with SAD.
Dr. Christopher Choi, the founder of Las Vegas-based Concierge Wellness Center, said research has found color can even help those losing cognitive function. Sometimes simple touches like switching black-and-white photos and art out for something brighter can work.
“The thinking is that you start to see things in black and white over time,” he said. “Experiences that stimulate the brain are like seeing bright colors, but we also need to actually see those bright colors to stimulate our senses more.”
If you are a renter and can’t paint, add colored pillows and linens to rooms.
Power down light intensity at night
One of the common confusion people have about indoor lighting during the winter months is that they think the home should still have strong blue light at night as well. However, after the sun goes down it’s actually time to shift to softer lighting, Kopec said.
“You really want to have a dimmer switch and want to make sure once you hit 7 p.m., you have a lower lighting level throughout the house,” he said. “If you don’t have switches, you can shift to a lower wattage bulb and make sure lamps have a good lampshade that diffuses light.”
Try a light box
In some cases, a home doesn’t allow for a lot of natural light during the day, purchasing a light box may be your answer. You can find some for between $30 and $50 online. There are also more sophisticated and expensive systems designed to mimic the exact light type for your location and time of day.
BrainLit is a brand that uses its BioCentric Lighting technology that does exactly that. Its lights generate what founder Tord Wingren calls “light recipes” that can adapt to geographic locations and times of day around the world to provide the right light needed at the right time to help combat the effects of SAD.
The adjustability of the light is key, Wingren said. “Our system gives you more bright light during the morning and during the day, and also … blue-free light during the late evening,” he said. “Research has clearly shown we can minimize the SAD effect with this light.”
Above all, if you’re battling SAD, human contact is key. Making the effort to go out every day with the neighbors or with friends, especially during the morning hours, can help tremendously. Also, planning ahead and preparing the home for guests is one way to head off SAD and also keep you enthusiastic about upcoming gatherings.
If you are prone to SAD, you want to start planning before you get the blues because once you start feeling that way, you may not want to do anything at all.
Try a couple of these ideas – they do work, and remember spring in Southern Nevada is just around the corner.
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Choose to have an amazing day….Jeff