With searches for “how to overcome seasonal depression” seeing a 75% increase in the past 12 months, people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as days get shorter and nights get colder.
SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. It occurs around the same time every year, usually during winter. The two main symptoms of this are low mood and a lack of interest in everyday activities.
Experts claim SAD is likely caused by reduced sunlight exposure, which has a domino effect on other factors such as melatonin production, serotonin levels, and disruption of the circadian rhythm. However, there are ways of designing our homes that can ease some of the symptoms.
Embrace natural light
Natural light is a powerful way of combating SAD. A large wall mirror hung opposite a window can bounce the light around the room and increase the available daylight, keeping symptoms at bay.
Sunlight can affect some of the brain’s chemicals and hormones. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus that controls sleep, appetite and mood, and when some people don’t get enough, this impacts how it functions.
As winter draws in, a lack of sunlight can cause your brain to produce too much of the sleep hormone melatonin and less serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that affects mood, which in turn impacts our circadian rhythms – the body’s internal clock which regulates our sleeping and eating patterns.
Create a window seat
Another way to reduce SAD symptoms is sitting next to the window. It can be as simple as putting a padded cushion on a windowsill or pushing a chair up against the window. This will remind you to spend some time in natural light during shorter days, positively impacting your mood.
If you can, buy a lightbox specifically designed to combat SAD. There is some evidence that phototherapy, using a lightbox for 20–30 minutes a day, can trick the brain into thinking there is more daylight available.
Even a grey winter’s day is 10,000 lux (the measure of light intensity), which is about the same as a lightbox. So, spending 20–30 mins daily sitting in natural light can have a protective effect.
Bring nature inside
We know that having plants in your home is good for our overall health as they absorb indoor pollutants, with a NASA study identifying 50 different species of houseplants that can improve the air quality in your home. But there’s also evidence that indoor plants as part of your décor can make us feel calmer and happier by suppressing activity in our autonomic nervous system.
There’s increasing evidence to show that biophilic design, a form of interior design inspired by human’s love of nature, has powerful effects on our mental and physical well-being, helping us calm our nervous system.
Investing in home accessories inspired by this design, such as a plant wall, can positively affect your mood.
Get inspiration from nature’s patterns
Nature is composed of self-repeating patterns of simple structures that form a visually complex image, just like a snowflake’s crystal formations or a leaf’s veins.
Humans are innately drawn to these patterns, and evidence suggests that using them in interior design can reduce stress. So, a sculpted wooden side table, forest wallpaper, or a banana leaf serving dish would be great additions to your household.
Be clever with your colour choices
We know that certain colours affect our heart rate and nervous system. Several studies have shown that green can reduce the human heart rate and contribute to creative thinking.
It’s clear colour can have a huge impact on our mood. We often associate nature with positive experiences so that we can benefit from this in our interior colour choices. Blue and cyan can relax our mood; greens remind us of nature and calm us, whilst warm yellow is associated with sunshine.
Candles and essential oil diffusers can create a warm ambience in your home and smelling wonderful. Lavender-scented candles or essential oils are great for relaxation and sleep; sandalwood helps relieve anxiety, while lemon is the perfect mood lifter.
Johanna Constantinou, brand and communications director at Tapi, says: “As the short days and nights draw in, it can be hard to boost your mood and well-being. Thankfully, however, some interior changes can be made to improve your living space, easing your symptoms and improving your well-being.
“We offer a wide range of flooring options, so if you’re looking for warmer options as the winter approaches, browse our range of cosy carpets.”