Congratulations, you’ve successfully survived Blue Monday.
The perfect storm of post-Christmas financial atrophy, creeping regret from excessive carb feasts and glum weather mean that the third Monday in January has gained notoriety as ‘the most depressing day of the year’.
While summer might be on the horizon, there are a few things we can do to beat the winter blues.
Why exactly does summer feel so good anyway?
1. Sunshine stimulates your happiness hormones
Picture a typical town or city when it’s a scorcher of a day. Picnic blankets pepper every available green space, convenience stores are plundered for beer and cider (and just about anything that’s still cold) and office workers chomp at the bit to get out of work early.
Our ancestors used to worship the sun, and in a way, we still do. But there’s good reason for it. When our bodies absorb UV light, it kick-starts a chemical process that produces more serotonin, which scientists call the ‘happiness hormone’. Exposure to strong sunlight also inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that leaves us feeling sleepy and sluggish
2. The ‘School’s out for Summer’ syndrome
Whether you loved school, or loathed it, we can all remember the feeling of the final bell that heralded the start of the summer holidays.
From an early age, many of us have been conditioned to associate summer with a break from responsibility and routine. Remember telling all of your peers the exciting things you planned to do and see?
“Even though the work world operates year-round and responsibilities don’t suddenly cease, we reflexively feel more carefree during the summer months, like we did when we were kids,” explains Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based therapist specializing in the psychology of happiness.
3. Summer lures us into the outside world
The promise of warm weather is a rarity for Brits, which may explain why roads in the Lake District come to grinding halt if the mercury does so much as rise above 20 degrees. A bleak mid-winter ramble through melancholic moorland is a tough sell, especially if you have children. Pitch a gentle stroll through mountain meadows, however, and you’ve a chance of luring the kids away from the screen if there’s ice-cream involved.
Simply put, we all feel calmer and more relaxed when we immerse ourselves in nature – a finding which is supported by researchers the world over.
4. You’re less likely to turn your nose up at exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is good for us. Working up a sweat drives the production of the same mood-boosting endorphins responsible for the ‘Runners High’. Even if your lifestyle is largely sedentary, summer presents the ideal environment to move around in less constructive ways that feel equally blissful as cosying up indoors in winter.
5. Social interactions are more frequent
Whether it’s a family barbecue, a weekend road trip or a light lunch with friends, an abundance of pleasant weather and relaxing vibes bring more people out of winter isolation.
Humans are social creatures, so mixing with friends and strangers makes us feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves, giving us a sense of fulfillment.
Beat the blues with these winter lighting tips
Most people prefer to be cooped up indoors if the first few months of the year are occupied by a barrage of wind, rain and hail. (Which, let’s face it, is more than likely.)
Why put up with cold hands and feet, or risk being splashed by a driver, when there’s warm, stodgy pudding at home?
While there’s no shame in hibernating, it is entirely possible to bring a sense of summer into your home while maintaining a sense of intimacy and cosiness.
Not only can light significantly affect your mood, it also enhances texture and highlights special features. Just because January is bleak doesn’t mean your interior lighting has to be.
“There’s no doubt that our needs change as winter sets in, and given light affects our mood so much, it’s something you need to get right,” says architect George Clarke, who is best known for his Channel 4 series Amazing Spaces.
Maximise natural light
Lighting can be overlooked and overthought, so a good place to start is with your windows and curtains. If you have heavy curtains or shutters, keep them open for as much of the day as possible to maximise the amount of natural light that surrounds your home. This is not only important in recreating a summer feel, it is vital to ones overall health since it slows the production of melatonin.
Alternatively, if you’re concerned about privacy, you might want to consider using thinner, lighter fabrics or blinds to allow light to bleed through evenly into the room.
Create an even distribution of light
The problem with having one source of light emitting everything from the center of the room, which is the case in many homes up and down the country, is that it creates shadows.
By strategically placing floor, pendant and table lamps around the room, you can play around with the look and feel until you’re happy with it. Placing floor lamps in the corners of rooms is a sure way to vanquish the gloom, since it creates an even spread of light and eliminates shadows.
Place mirrors opposite large windows
Mirrors can be used to manipulate the distribution of light to create the illusion of space. Placing them opposite main light sources will reflect the majority of incoming light across the room. Dull days be gone!
Check your bulbs
Not all bulbs are created equal. Selecting a lamp that has all the right textures and proportions is no use if the light it is emitting is garish and harsh.
Swap out low-wattage bulbs with brighter, energy-efficient ones for a more natural-looking light.
- Try using full-spectrum bulbs: These bulbs are closer in colour to natural sunlight than regular bulbs. They come in nearly every size, shape, and type (incandescent, fluorescent, and LED) so you don’t have to worry about having to purchase obscure light fittings.
- Beat the blues:According to some studies, lights that fall into the blue spectrum help with mental focus and alertness more so than other lights.
- There are built-in systems now available that use LEDs capable of changing colours. These colour changes are aimed at boosting your energy during the daytime and calming you down in the evening.