During winter months, who hasn’t gotten a little ‘down’? With days being short, and daylight in diminishing supply, late fall, winter, and early spring can be a dreary time of the year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than just feeling blue, and can be a very serious condition. It is estimated that as many as 10 million Americans experience full blown SAD while another 10-20% experience milder levels of SAD symptoms during the winter season. Although not a cure for those suffering the intensive effects of SAD, architecture and interior design can potentially help alleviate SAD-like symptoms in surprisingly simple ways:
- Design for natural lighting – Not all of us can get outside during our work day. Because of this, windows can be incorporated into designs to bring lighting into where we work. Even if windows cannot be incorporated into every part of a design, areas such as lunch or break rooms can help to achieve the minimum of 30 minutes of natural light that is recommended by most doctors. In addition, there are LED ‘faux’ skylights that can be installed which mimic hues, that cause our brain to perceive natural sunlight.
- Introduce borrowed light into interior spaces – add interior windows to walls separating enclosed offices from open office areas to allow natural light to permeate the space and offer glimpses of the sky to those deep inside the building.
- Use bright warm hues and natural inspired materials – It is quite surprising how much color can impact our perception of openness, increase blood circulation, and improve mood. Color coordination and material usage is key to providing an attractive setting, and achieving a desired aesthetic.
- Allow spaces for natural vegetation – Obviously, during the winter, outdoor plants generally go into a dormant state, leaving everything drab and gray. However, with little care, adding a few indoor plants can help connect our feelings to spring and summer, when symptoms of SAD are not as severe.
- Add or change out artwork to brighten – If budget doesn’t allow adjustment of permanent finishes, the addition of artwork can also have an impact on how a space feels. Bright warm colors or nature scenes of spring and summer vegetation tap into those subconscious feelings associated with life, growth and hope.
- Replace conventional window treatments with light directing blinds – During the winter months the sun is low in the sky. Some blinds have unique louvre designs that throw low winter sun rays much deeper into the room while reflecting high summer sun rays back outside.
- If possible, create a space for light exercise – Physical health and mental well-being are tied together, and one could argue, one in the same. Even a slight increase in heart rate can release endorphins that have been proven to fight off depression symptoms.
Although these are not sure-fire remedies for SAD, creating inviting, colorful, and well planned environments can help lessen some of the symptoms. Contact SOA to help you warm up your space and put an end to the winter blues.