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Your Space & S.A.D: How Interior Design Can Help You Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here in the Arctic Circle, we're just starting to emerge from the depths of winter. The months of darkness have their own unique beauty, but they carry a threat: Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is linked to a biochemical imbalance that can happen as a result of shorter daylight hours and its impact on the body's circadian rhythm. SAD affects millions of people annually and can last for several months at a time (American Psychiatric Association), making people more prone to depression, fatigue, and mental exhaustion.

At House of Tamanaha, our interdisciplinary approach gives us a deep respect for how the built environment impacts things like our body chemistry and mental health. We believe that design is part of a complex toolkit to creating a more beautiful, livable world. We've put together a brief introduction to how thoughtful interior design choices can help alleviate the impact of SAD and help you get through those dark winter months.

Maximize Natural Light:

  • Open Up to Sunlight: Embrace the natural light by keeping curtains and blinds open during (any and all) daylight hours.

  • Lighter Window Treatments: Choose light-colored or sheer curtains to invite as much sunlight as possible into your living spaces.

Use Light Therapy:

  • Illuminating Solutions: Consider integrating light boxes that mimic natural sunlight into your home. These provide an effective way to combat the effects of SAD.

  • Don't Look at the Light: A typical light therapy box, or 'happy lamp' emits 10,000 lux (roughly 100x normal indoor lighting) to activate your hypothalamus and help reset your circadian rhythm - especially if you sit next to it in the morning (Harvard Medical School). Just make sure it's not directly in your line of vision!

Optimize Lighting Design:

  • Full-Spectrum Bulbs: Install full-spectrum light bulbs to closely replicate natural sunlight in lamps and fixtures throughout your home. Products like sunrise alarm clocks can help you retain a subconscious feeling of natural waking cycles (even when the real sun doesn't).

  • Layered Lighting: Create a well-lit environment with a combination of general, task, and accent lighting to enhance the overall mood and make your space more comfortable.

Choose Mood-Boosting Colors:

  • Warm Color Palette: Infuse your interiors with warm and inviting colors such as yellows, oranges, and warmer-toned light blues to create a cheerful atmosphere. Interestingly, warm-toned colors have been shown to make people believe they are physically warmer (Psychology Today).

  • Lighter Shades: Opt for lighter paint colors on your walls to reflect and amplify available light.

Introduce Greenery:

  • Indoor Oasis: Bring the outdoors in by incorporating indoor plants. Not only do they improve air quality, but they also add a touch of nature to your space.

Create Cozy and Comfortable Spaces:

  • Soft Furnishings: Enhance comfort with soft furnishings like cushions, blankets, and rugs, creating cozy corners for relaxation. Not every solution has to be anti-winter: embracing the indoors and snuggling up can help you love and enjoy the winter months.

  • Personalized Touches: Infuse your space with personal items, photos, and artwork that evoke positive emotions and memories.

Encourage Movement:

  • Designated Exercise Spaces: Dedicate areas for physical activities like yoga or exercise to promote movement and combat lethargy.

Prioritize Clutter-Free Spaces:

  • Serenity in Simplicity: Keep your spaces organized and clutter-free to reduce stress and foster a more serene environment. Studies have shown that clutter is linked to a feeling of being overwhelmed and having a lack of control (Newport Healthcare), which feeds directly into SAD. By keeping your environment clean, you can help keep these feelings at bay.

Consider Ergonomics:

  • Comfortable Living: Select ergonomic and comfortable furniture to enhance well-being and support relaxation. If the cold keeps you inside, the least you can be is comfy!

This winter, let your home be a sanctuary of light and positivity. At House of Tamanaha, we believe that good design sits at the intersection of self and science. By incorporating these interior design strategies, you can create a space that not only reflects your style but also contributes to a brighter and more uplifting atmosphere.

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