Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, affects up to 3 in 100 people around the UK at some point in their life.
SAD is defined as a form of depression that is sparked by the changing seasons. A/W SAD is often attributed to cooler months, longer nights, and shorter days. Symptoms include low mood, difficulty concentrating, feeling sluggish, interrupted sleeping patterns and agitation. Some even report a lack of appetite.
Here, Joan Gair at Housetastic.co.uk presents the cost-effective changes that you can make within your home that can reduce the impact of SAD.
While the exact cause of SAD is not fully known, it is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter Autumn and Winter months. Lack of sunlight reduces the amount of vitamin D your body produces, and studies have shown that it can regulate your mood. “As SAD can be triggered by the darker evenings of winter, reassess your home’s lighting to utilise both natural light and artificial light,” Joan Gair from Housetastic.co.uk advises.
Gair continues “keep curtains and blinds open to let in as much natural light as possible. If you are still working from home, moving your desk into brighter rooms will help regulate your mood.” If your home doesn’t receive much natural sunlight invest in artificial lighting, such as SAD lamps. “SAD lamps are warm lamps which simulate sunlight, which help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder,” Gair explains. “They work by triggering the brain to release serotonin, thus helping to boost and regulate your mood.”
The colours of your home can have both a positive and negative impact on your mood and wellbeing, so it is worth thinking about this before opting for specific colours. “While it is hardly practical to advise painting your room at every turn of the season, it is important to be mindful when selecting the colour scheme for each room,” Gair explains.
Different colours can affect our moods greatly. For example, although red is a warming colour, it is said to increase blood pressure and irritability, whereas, despite blue having calming qualities, certain shades can come across as cold and frosty, which may not be ideal for coping with SAD. “Opt for colours with warm undertones that will create a sense of cosiness and be more welcoming than a bright clinical white,” Gair advises. “By choosing more neutral warm tones, you are giving yourself a warm canvas that you can alter with the correct accessories. For example, brighter, more vibrant colours make a nice addition against a more neutral backdrop.”
House plants do wonders for our mental health, with numerous scientific studies showing that living amongst indoor plants helps to minimise stress levels, improve our moods, and even reduce our blood pressure. “Indoor plants help improve air quality by purifying and removing the toxins found in the air, which helps keep the lungs clean,” Gair explains. “Indoor plans also help to regulate the temperature inside, even in the winter, which helps boost our moods and keep us feeling productive.
Gair continues, “To combat SAD, choose house plants that thrive all year round,” Gair advises. “Hardy plants that don’t require lots of light or water, such as snake plants, ferns and palms are great choices as they will all survive the winter months with minimal effort from you.”
Those who suffer from SAD often find themselves feeling sleepier than usual during the day and sleep longer during the night. According to studies, people with SAD sleep two hours longer per night in the winter compared to the summer. Establishing a bedtime routine and winding down and waking up at the same time each day, helps you to balance your mood and emotions and improving the excessive sleepiness which comes from SAD.
With working from home being the norm for so many in the past eighteen months, the line between work and home life is increasingly blurred, and many of us have had to work from our bedrooms. However, Gair strongly advises against this. “Your bedroom should be a place of sanctuary, so try to avoid doing any work or stressful tasks there. If space is an issue, then at least try and avoid working from the bed, as your brain will then associate your bed with work and stress, rather than peace and sleep.”
Hygge is a Danish word that encapsulates the feeling of relaxation, wellness, mindfulness, and peace. “You don’t have to invest in costly soft furnishings to achieve the Hygge approach as ultimately, it’s about creating an environment which invites the opportunity to ‘switch off,’” says Gair. “Remove anything that you may find distracting or irritating in the space where you relax. This can include clocks, anything that makes noise or online devices. Replace them with furnishings commonly associated with calm such as candles, weighted blankets, and plants.”
Embracing Hygge will work to combat SAD as it involves being proactive in preventing or combatting such negative feelings. By doing so, you can avoid sadness and instead encourage warmth and comfort.