I’ve written about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is triggered by different seasons. A small amount of people are affected by the late spring and summer, but many more are laid low by winter. What if, however, you don’t have SAD per se, but are someone with depression whose depression is exacerbated by the fall and winter darkness? Granted, when you have depression you’re frequently unaware of the weather. The most brilliantly sunny day with soft breezes can leave you cold.
But the increase in hours of night that comes with fall and winter is another matter. The lack of light, the absence of color from foliage (if you live in a region where all the vegetation dies or hibernates in the winter) makes your life more emotionally colorless somehow. Since there’s nothing you can do about changing the world outside, you might want to concentrate your energy on making your home more welcoming. Here are my top two suggestions for making this happen (as cheaply as possible):
1. Do your spring cleaning in the fall. Cleaning your house from top to bottom seems to occur most naturally in the spring, but in some ways that doesn’t make sense. After all, you’re going to be spending less time inside once spring and summer come. Wouldn’t you want things to be at their cleanest when you’re probably going to be spending a lot more time there in the coming months? I don’t know about you, but when it’s dark at 5:00pm, I’m tempted to skedaddle home as soon as possible. And if my house is a mess and less than clean, it can deepen my depression, not to mention making me feel somewhat like a loser. When it’s relatively clean and neat, however, it’s a haven.
I know that cleaning is not the easiest thing to do when you’re depressed. Just taking care of a few dishes in the sink can seem like an exhausting task. But this is worth doing – it will make a difference to your state of mind, at least in that the condition of your home won’t make your state of mind worse.
Sometimes it helps to have some guidance. FlyLady.net gets you started with baby steps. You can sign up for emails that suggest what part of the house to tackle each day. Everything is broken down into small parts, so it’s not quite as overwhelming, and having someone else organize the process for you is really helpful.
2. There’s a reason why restaurant owners spend a lot of time and energy figuring out how to make their spaces more inviting with lighting. Sufficient lighting in the right places really makes a big difference in making your home welcoming. And gloomy is not good when your mind is already tending in that direction.
At night, walk from room to room evaluating how well lit each room is. Add more lighting if possible. If you’re concerned about increased energy usage, switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. Although they cost more initially than regular incandescent light bulbs, they’ll pay for themselves over the course of the winter in decreased energy usage (they use 75% less energy). They do take a little while longer than incandescent bulbs to reach their full wattage after you turn them on, so you might want to invest in a timer and set it to turn the lights on fifteen or twenty minutes before you get home.