How Green Design Can Remedy Seasonal Affective Disorder
Fall and winter bring cooler temperatures, holiday seasons and other fun events, but the seasons can be a challenging time for many. Spring and summer deliver warmer temperatures and more daylight, but this time of year can also feel burdensome for some people.
The seasons can affect a person’s mood and alter their daily activities, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD affects about 5% of U.S. adults, but there are ways to alleviate it. Some people use supplements and exercise, and others can use the design of their home to help themselves feel better during challenging times.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a form of depression based on the time of year. For many people, SAD starts in the fall and elevates during the winter months. The cold temperatures and lack of sunlight can adversely affect your mental health if you have SAD. Sometimes, SAD can start in the spring or early summer and decrease once the fall and winter months arrive.
The symptoms of SAD may seem mild at first, but they can escalate as the seasons progress. One sign is feeling daily sadness. You may lack interest in the things you like to do and feel a low amount of energy. Some people with SAD have a hard time focusing or they feel guilty or hopeless about something.
What Are the Symptoms of SAD?
SAD symptoms can vary, depending on the season. Those who have SAD during the fall and winter may experience oversleeping. The winter months have less sunlight, which can lead to decreased productivity from your brain. Sunlight helps you stay awake and feel productive, but you may feel sluggish and oversleep when the sun sets earlier.
Another symptom of SAD in the fall and winter is a change in appetite and desire to eat high-carb foods. Some people use carbohydrates to boost their serotonin and energy levels, though the effects can be short-term.
Those who suffer from SAD in the spring and summer may experience insomnia. Contrary to winter, the summertime brings extended daylight, which your brain may take as a sign it needs to stay awake. In some places, the sun sets close to 9 p.m., causing some people trouble sleeping. Other spring and summer SAD symptoms may include anxiety and a poor appetite leading to weight loss.
How Can You Ease SAD?
Scientists are unsure what directly causes SAD. Numerous factors can come into play, including your body’s biological clock and serotonin and melatonin levels. Treatment for SAD may vary per person, but there are ways to mitigate the symptoms. Some methods include:
- Vitamin D supplements: One of the driving factors of SAD is a lack of vitamin D. Earlier sunsets typically mean less sun exposure for people throughout the day. By the time you get off work or other obligations, the sun may already be close to setting. Some doctors may recommend vitamin D supplements to ensure you get enough during the day.
- Exercising: Physical activity is a common remedy for depression and anxiety. Some people may feel sluggish and experience weight gain with SAD. Turning to exercise may ease the symptoms. Outdoor workouts may be more challenging in the winter, so finding exercise at home or in a gym can improve your mental health.
- Adjusting schedule: Sleep is an issue for SAD, whether someone has it in the summer or winter months. Some people try to alleviate their SAD by adjusting their sleep schedule to the time of year. During the winter, they may wake up and sleep earlier to maximize their time during sunlight. In the summertime, they switch their schedule to adjust to the later sunsets and longer daylight hours.
Can Green Design Alleviate SAD?
Another way you can remedy SAD is with your home’s layout. A green home design can positively affect the environment and improve your mood during your times of struggle. These three ways are measures you can take in your house to alleviate SAD symptoms.
One of the best ways to combat SAD is with lighting. You can get light from various sources, but natural light is one of the best remedies for SAD. After all, solar energy is the cheapest light source available. You’ll get it every day as long as the sun rises and sets. Natural light entering your home can help you feel more alert when SAD lingers and makes you feel sluggish.
One way to use lighting to your advantage is by incorporating human-centric lighting (HCL). This method imitates Earth’s light cycle and supports a person’s circadian rhythm. People who use HCL in their homes find themselves more productive during the day and sleep better at night. This light system is artificial and simulates sunlight’s intensity over 24 hours. It shines bright in the middle of the day and winds down with colors mimicking sunsets in the evening.
Plants are a terrific option for home decor and they positively affect the environment around you. The plants you grow in your home can purify the air by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. They can also trap pollutants and absorb them, creating a healthier environment in your household. Popular houseplants you may see in people’s homes are African violets, spider plants, begonias and peace lilies.
These plants provide pleasant aesthetics and better air and can remedy symptoms of SAD. Surrounding yourself with plants can relieve stress and anxiety. Tending to plants can give you a sense of purpose and help you feel productive when the sluggish months arrive. The bright colors of flowers can help your mood and give your home a tremendous lift in its design.
Another element of your home design you can use to ease SAD symptoms is the color of your walls. One of the leading causes of SAD is a lack of sunlight, so you’ll want your walls to reflect as much natural light as possible. You can achieve this by selecting light colors with white bases. Dark colors will absorb sunlight, but lighter colors will increase the amount of natural light in your room.
The colors of your walls can also affect the temperature of your house and your carbon footprint. During the summertime, dark-colored walls absorb the heat and increase the room’s temperature. Light-colored walls reflect the sun’s rays and keep your house cooler. Dark walls and higher temperatures mean your air conditioner runs more often, leading to increased energy use and higher utility bills.
Green Design for a Happier Life
SAD affects millions of people every season. Though it’s more common in the winter, this disorder can negatively affect mental health in the summer. Researchers aren’t sure of the exact causes of SAD, but there are ways you can alleviate the symptoms.
One significant way to boost your mental health is by implementing a green design in your home. With these three tips, you’ll reap the mental health benefits and make your home more environmentally conscious.