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(illustration: Jade-Cascade)

What can help you with winter blues? Your home! These tips to survive the winter doldrums can help you get to spring with flying colors.

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My grandmother always became very sad when winter rolled around. When I was a little girl, I believed it was because of cabin fever — she loved her garden with a passion that was unparalleled, and of course there was no gardening happening when the world was covered in snow.

As I became older, I thought it might be the end of the holidays that triggered her depression. After all, our holiday celebrations were always glorious, filled with an incredible amount of love and joy. Who wouldn’t be sad when the family once again flew their separate ways?

Feeling SAD?

Now as an adult who has the same trouble with the blues during the winter months, I realize that what my grandmother dealt with wasn’t just a few days of feeling down. I strongly suspect she had Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately known as SAD. There are many things that contribute to SAD, including sensitivity to the lack of sunlight during the winter months,  a problem that might be genetic.

Where you live matters, too. Researchers have found that as latitude increases — usually bringing harsher winters with it — so does the rate of SAD. For example, Florida has a 1.4 percent rate of SAD, while New York sees a 12.5 percent incidence of it, according to a study conducted by the University of Alabama.

The good news is that there are ways to lessen the impact of the winter blues. Some of these tips might take you out into the cold, but many of the tried-and-true techniques work right in your own home.

Spruce up your home

Those who suffer from winter blues can often find relief in doing something productive. Though it can be tempting to stay in bed all day, avoid the temptation and instead, make a list of things around the house that need to be done. Having a new job to tackle each day will give you the opportunity to spruce up your home while improving your mood. Now might be a good time to clean out the closets, rearrange the furniture and air out the quilts that have been languishing in the cedar chest.

Let the sunshine in

Medical professionals believe that one of the triggers of SAD is a lack of sunlight. Those who are suffering badly might benefit from a full-spectrum light or a bright light device, both of which can be recommended or prescribed by your doctor.

Get a jump-start on the light by opening up the windows as much as you can, removing curtains from those windows that don’t need them for privacy, and otherwise getting more sunlight into your home. Adding a few new windows could be a good design project that keeps your attention during those sad months.

Stay active

It might be too cold to go outside, but there are plenty of exercise options you can choose to do at home that will keep your blood pumping. Exercise naturally releases endorphins, which are also known as feel-good hormones. The more of these you have coursing through you, the easier it will be to fight the depression that is threatening to overwhelm you.

Turn your spare room into a small gym, complete with a treadmill. Not enough room? Buy workout videos and get your groove on in front of the television. If you dare to brave the outdoors, dress warmly and make a point of exercising on very sunny days.

Keep your house warm…

Some research has found that the colder a person is, the more depressed they might be. For most people in areas where SAD is more common, so is the bitter cold that comes along with snow, ice and shorter periods of sunlight. The result, obviously, is a house that might be frigid, especially if you are trying to save on utility bills.

Get ahead of the problem now by planning for more insulation, tightening up the house with weather-stripping and caulk, and investing in a programmable thermostat. In the meantime, enjoy a heating blanket and a cup of cocoa to warm you from the inside out.

But keep your colors cool

When it comes to the colors in your house, now is the time to get a jump-start on spring. Look for colors that reflect the light coming in through the windows, such a pale blues and pinks. White is also a good color to reflect the extra light you need.

Keep in mind, however, that the colors in your home should ultimately be those that make you happy, as your mood is what matters most. So if you aren’t keen on an all-white decor, add a few splashes of color that make you comfortable, such as a vivid red or a soothing, deep green.

Getting past the winter blues

There are many other things you can try to get through the winter blues, such as inviting friends over more often and eating properly. Never hesitate to see your doctor if it seems as though you just can’t get through another day without feeling sad and distraught — SAD and other winter blues can become serious if not treated properly.

It also helps to remember that winter does end. It can be tough to believe when you are dealing with the shorter days and the bitter cold, but one day soon the spring winds will blow, and the bright flowers will bloom — just like you will once the winter is over.

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.