SAD & Your Home: Winter Lighting Tips
There are many reasons to love winter, but there is no denying that the coldest season of the year also has substantial downsides. While the delight of the holidays, and the pure joy of curling up to read a book while it snows outside, cannot be denied, for many people, winter is also an extremely challenging season for one simple reason: seasonal affective disorder.
Below, we’re going to explore seasonal affective disorder – which is most commonly abbreviated to SAD – and look at some of the lighting solutions you can introduce to your home to help counter the impact of the condition. So, without further ado, let’s start at the very beginning…
What is SAD?
While the term “seasonal affective disorder” is relatively new, the tendency for people experiencing “winter blues” has been noted throughout history – SAD is just the formal, medical term for the same issue. The main symptom of SAD is depression, though some people also experience anxiety, irritability, and physical fatigue.
What causes SAD?
The causes of SAD have not entirely been established; in particular, no one is sure why some people experience SAD, but others don’t. However, the condition is heavily linked to the lack of sunlight humans experience over the winter months. Sunlight has been linked to serotonin production, and it thought that this lack of serotonin is what produces the symptoms we recognize as SAD.
It’s been theorized that one of the major reasons why a majority of people consider spring or summer to be their favorite season is due to the longer days these seasons offer. The longer days increase overall sunlight exposure, sending serotonin production into overdrive, and people feel happier as a result. In the winter, the opposite occurs; there’s less light, less serotonin, and SAD symptoms become more apparent.
How is SAD treated?
If you suspect you have SAD, then it’s important to talk to a doctor for diagnosis and advice regarding your specific condition. There are medications available that can help ease the symptoms, as well as therapeutic options that can be explored.
In addition to medicalized treatment, many people who experience SAD use light therapy to help improve their symptoms. Light therapy involves deliberate exposure to electric light, which is usually above 10,000 lux in brightness – a brightness that is thought to be close to natural sunlight. Light therapy is not a guaranteed cure, but it does help some people, so it may be worth researching further if you feel that it may benefit you.
Now that we’ve established what SAD is, and the ideas you may wish to explore to treat the condition, we can turn our attention to…
Can home lighting help ease the symptoms of SAD?
First and foremost, it’s important to note that home lighting cannot treat SAD. The type of light you can use in your home will never be bright enough to be considered “light therapy”, and besides, you wouldn’t want to live in a house powered by light from 10,000 lux bulbs – that kind of brightness is too uncomfortable and unforgiving for general usage.
However, what your home lighting can do is improve the quality of the light you are exposed to, which in turn helps to counteract the lack of daylight we all experience in winter. If your home’s interior feels bright and light, then you may find it easier to manage other symptoms of SAD. As a result, improving your home lighting should be seen as supplementary to other forms of SAD treatment – many people report good home lighting makes a huge difference to their symptoms, but it’s not a treatment in and of itself.
Nevertheless, ensuring your home feels well-lit during winter really can help to improve your mood, as well as having the additional benefit of ensuring your home looks at its best throughout the winter months. If you want to give it a try, below, we’ve put together a list of winter lighting tips that can help light up even the darkest of winter days.
#1 – Use LED bulbs
The benefits of LED bulbs are numerous, and it’s well worth taking the time to learn more about these clever bulbs if you have yet to make the full switch from conventional bulbs. Most importantly, when discussing winter lighting, is the brightness LED bulbs can achieve. LEDs tend to produce a brighter, clearer light that can closely mimic daylight far better than more traditional bulbs. As we’ve mentioned, this isn’t sufficient to “treat” SAD but can make a real difference to how you, and your home, feel during the winter months.
There are a variety of different ways you can use LED bulbs, ranging from simple ceiling lights to more elaborate light strips that are controlled by a smart speaker. Whichever you choose, you can look forward to brighter, energy efficient light as a result of making the switch.
#2 – Light your corners
When lighting your home with winter in mind, it’s important to focus on the quality of that light – but also to think about how the light can spread.
For example, if you are using a ceiling spotlight to provide the light for a room, the light this fixture provides cannot spread evenly. The space directly below the light will be brightly lit, and there will then usually be a circle of brightness slightly beyond that. However, by the time the light reaches the corners, it’s simply unable to spread that far, and the corners will be dim, or outright dark.
An uneven light spread is the enemy of a bright, open, well-lit space – which, after all, is your goal. As a result, it’s worth investing in light sources specifically for the corners of every room, so you are not relying on the ceiling light to spread beyond its capabilities. Floor lamps are particularly useful for this purpose, though LED light strips or even decorative novelty lamps work well, too – provided the corner is well-lit by its own, dedicated source, the overall look and feel of the room should be greatly improved.
Of course, there may be areas of darkness that are far from a wall socket, making them difficult to light with any form of mains-powered lighting. For example, in this image…
… there is a dark ‘spot’ at the join of the sofa, on the left-hand side. In this kind of arrangement, it’s best to opt for small, battery-powered decorative lights or fairy lights that can be attached directly to, or hung from, the wall. These types of lights are usually seen as little more than a novelty, but they fulfill the purpose of eliminating ‘dark spots’ well.
#3 – Set your lights to a timer
There is something inherently unpleasant about arriving home of an evening to a dark, cold house – and such an experience is certainly less than ideal for your mood.
By far the best way to counter this experience is to set your lights to a timer. This measure allows you to arrive home to a house that is already well-lit, which is infinitely a more pleasant, welcoming experience. You can use conventional timers for this purpose, setting the device each time you leave the house.
Alternatively, you could invest in smart devices that allow you to control your lighting electronically, either via smart bulbs or smart sockets. These devices allow you to turn your lights on via your smartphone, either when you’re on your way back to the house, when you’re sitting in the driveway, or – similarly to old-fashioned timers – at a pre-set time of day.
Whichever option you choose, you can be sure that being able to arrive home to a bright space is vastly preferable to a sea of darkness.
#4 – Further considerations
There are two further considerations that are worth exploring when it comes to lighting your home from winter, neither of which are directly about your lighting choices themselves – but both of which influence the efficacy of your lighting efforts.
The first is the color of your walls and ceiling. Simply put, lighter colors – and white in particular – better reflect light, helping it to spread around the room. Dark colors have the opposite effect, which can obviously hamper your overall winter lighting plans. While redecorating your entire house in time for winter is unlikely to be a viable choice at this point, it may be worth redecorating the rooms where you spend the most time in order to bolster your overall lighting efforts.
Secondly, and also regarding light spread, consider adding more mirrors to each room of your home. Mirrors act in a similar way to bright wall colors, and can help to ensure an even spread that – combined with daylight LED bulbs – will strongly resemble a bright summer’s day.
Home lighting cannot, in and of itself, cure SAD or ease the “winter blues” – but it can contribute to a wider effort. By using the right type of lighting, in the right places, and taking steps to ensure an even light spread, your home should be bright, comfortable, and welcoming all winter long.