Friday, January 1, 2010

Color Your World

I don't recall where I read it, but it was about a year ago an article online caught my attention. The headline was something along the lines of a question, asking if you suffer from SAD and offering some self-help types of ideas if you do. For those who don't know what SAD is, it stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter depression. I honestly don't know how much credible science is behind the disorder, but apparently there are a good number of people that suffer this type of depression only in the winter time. Brought on by a lack of sunlight and shorter daylight hours during the winter time, it can be a very miserable existance for those who do suffer from it. Those affected often require medication and many even use simulated sunlight lamps to bring the "sunshine" into their homes to help them cope with it. While I don't suffer from this kind of seasonal depression, things like this tend to catch my eye and my interest.

bright, cheery colorsOne of the things mentioned in the article that may help for some people with SAD, is adding a lot of color to your environment and even your warddrobe. Even though I don't have SAD, this really caught my attention because I live where winter seems to stretch on forever, and I do get rather anxious and irritable after months of snow and cold and generally miserable weather conditions. In this article the writer said to brighten up your surroundings by just making some minor changes in what you see every day. In doing that, you sort of balance out the gray and dreariness of the outside with a nice splash of color on the inside. That really made a lot of sense to me. Suggestions for doing this around the house were really simple things like putting fresh flowers in a place you'd see them every day such as the dining room table or the kitchen counter. Another simple change was to replace the throw pillows on your couch with a light or pastel color floral pillow, or even bright primary color pillow with bold patterns such as stars, stripes or any other shape. Other suggestions were painting your bathroom in contrasting pale yellow (or bright white) and carribean blue colors (I've seen that color combo and it really does look like a beach bungalow), replacing your lighter drapes or curtains with a lighter color, adding real or silk plants (large ferns or palms were the suggestions) to an empty corner of the room, and adding bright outdoor type framed prints (such as a field of wildflowers or beach/ocean scenes) to your walls. The goal was to get away from the darker, earthy colors like browns, greens and dark blues and replace them with more summery colors that actually make you feel cheerful and invigorated. The large plants give a type of breezy, outdoorsy feeling to the room as well.

The same idea was given for changes to your warddrobe, and it applies to both men and women who suffer from this. I don't know if you've ever really noticed, but since its winter time, the next time you go to your local clothing store really pay attention to the clothes they have for sale. You'll see a sea of browns, dark reds, dark blues, greens, black and so on. Winter clothes are primarily dark colors for both men and women. Oddly enough, kids winter clothes come in a huge variety of bright colors. Taking a cue from kids clothes, men can replace the darker colors with lighter dress shirts and ties, brightly colored hoodies or sweatshirts or polo style shirts. The lighter and brighter colored clothing is not as easy to find in the winter as it is in the late spring or summer, but if you look around you can find it. The same idea applies to women, but of course we have a bigger selection to choose from if you include all the accessories we like to use, such as scarves, purses, totes, jewelry, and various hair accessories. Getting away from the darker colors and choosing softer, pastel colors or bright vivid colors is the whole idea. Instead of the dark colored hair scrunchies, grab a package of scrunchies that have bright orange, hot pink, bright yellow or turquoise, and find a few tops in your closet that will go nicely with those colors (that you might only wear in the spring or summer months). If you live where it's very cold, put a white or light colored long sleeve tee or turtleneck under your bright colored blouse to keep you warm, but make sure that blouse is a nice bright or pastel color.

I know this may sound somewhat silly to a lot of people, but last winter I decided to try this to see if it made a difference. Long story short, it really does make a difference. I have several bright colored sweatshirts and buy scrunchies to match. I'm a big fan of thick winter socks too, so I make sure I also have some brightly colored socks as well. I also really love what my sister in law and I call "comfy pants". Whatever they're called where you are (pajama pants, lounge pants, etc.) this is what I wear when I'm home all day, instead of jeans or sweatpants. Every single pair of my comfy pants are LOUD and bright. Pink stars, yellow sunflowers, purple stripes and more. I try to stay away from black or dark browns in the winter and instead choose bright blues and oranges and pinks, because it just makes me more cheerful.

I've also slowly begun to replace the darker colors in my living room with brighter ones. The changes have been small so far with just some contrasting pillows. It's not quite how I want it yet, but as I change things up a bit, it becomes nicer all the time to go in there and sit and enjoy being in there. Next up for that room is replacing the curtains, throws for the couch and chairs and the prints on the wall, and I've got my eye on a few inexpensive ideas for that.

Whether or not you suffer from SAD or just get really tired of seeing a blanket of snow or another day of rain clouds, making some of these minor adjustments in your day to day surroundings will really help. As an added bonus, your family will really enjoy it as well when you begin brightening up a room like this. The change may be small at first, but it really is noticable.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe