Set the Clocks Back, but Keep Your Days Bright

pair of working parents wearing headlamps for a night time walk

The fall season brings crunchy leaves and cooler weather — it’s the perfect excuse to rediscover your coziest clothes. But it also means a decrease in daylight hours, and for some, that can feel rather gloomy. Less daylight might make it feel like there’s less time in your day and can increase the urge to snuggle up and hibernate.

This piece is not intended as medical advice, purely as tips and guidance for general wellbeing. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or are concerned about any other mental health condition, consult a medical professional.

If you’re dreading the drain of shorter days this fall and winter, take a look at our tips for dealing with the end of Daylight Saving Time.

Get as Much Light as Possible

Bright light improves concentration, helps you feel more awake, and keeps your circadian rhythm and body clock balanced. Here are ways you can increase your exposure.

  • Get outside on your lunch break - Commuting in the dark might be the only time you spend outside a building during the week. Getting out of your workplace during your lunch hour, either for a quick walk or even just to pick up some coffee, can refresh you for the afternoon. If you work from home, getting outside mid-day can be even more important, as it can be harder to leave the house once the evening rolls in and family responsibilities take over.
  • Brighten your space - Open the curtains or blinds as far as they will go and move your chair closer to the window. Brighten the room with light-colored furniture or mirrors, which can reflect and amplify the light.
  • Invest in a daylight simulation bulb - The temperature (or ‘shade’) of a lightbulb matters! The ‘warm white’ bulbs found in most living rooms are around 2500K (Kelvin). Look for a daylight bulb of about 5000K-6000K to help banish the shadows. Consider a lamp if you find overhead lighting to be too harsh in the evenings.

Connect with Loved Ones

With the exception of the holiday season, we often see less of our friends and family in the colder months, as people are more prone to want to stay warm indoors at home. Turn this around by scheduling a coffee catch-up with a friend or stopping by their house after work. In November, 6:00p.m. seems a lot later than it does in July, but making the most of your evenings can help you maintain a summer mindset. Better yet, make it a recurring get-together to keep your spirits up! And if in-person isn’t possible, set up some video chats.

Keeping the weekdays entertaining means you aren’t trying to cram all your downtime activities into two weekend days, and making time for visits and laughter will help boost your mood.

Plan Ahead

It might be tough, but don’t let daily chores fall by the wayside. Make things easier by planning ahead. Over the weekend, meal-prep your lunches if you struggle to pack them daily. If waking up in the dark has turned you into the opposite of a morning person, set everything out for the next day the night before, and you’ll have less to do when you wake up.

Move Your Body

The dreaded ‘E’ word that crops up in every guide for stress relief — exercise! — is making an appearance again. But it doesn’t have to mean pounding the pavement in freezing weather. If running isn’t your thing, try a round of stretches when you get out of bed in the morning, a 10-minute YouTube yoga video, or an impromptu dance party with your little ones or pet. It’s the small, life-affirming differences we make that help keep our heads clear.

Boost Your Energy

Small additions to your diet and lifestyle can help you feel more energized, especially this time of year. Winter is the prime time to give in to our cravings for heavy comfort foods. Adding extra protein and fiber to your meals, such as fruit, nuts, and chia seeds to your oatmeal, or spinach and other veggies to your dinner can help you get the vitamins you need.

Bump up your bedtime, eliminate screen time before bed, try a late-night mug of tea, and/or use a weighted blanket to help you get a good night’s sleep. Used by occupational therapists to relieve stress, weighted blankets have quilted pockets that are filled with glass or plastic beads. The weight aims to mimic ‘deep touch pressure,’ like a firm hug, to help you to feel cozy and calm. Please note that pregnant women and children under the age of three should not use weighted blankets.

About Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

For some, the ‘winter blues’ goes a step further and turns into SAD, a type of depression experienced during certain seasons or times of the year. There are five key signs of SAD to look out for

  • Low mood and reduced energy
  • Feeling less sociable, wanting to withdraw
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Appetite increase and/or weight gain.

However, these signals are quite generic, and it can be hard to pinpoint whether you or a loved one is suffering from SAD or any other mental health issue.If you’re concerned, it’s important to seek professional medical advice. For more information on SAD, including treatment options, visit Mind.org.