For us, winter means bonfire nights, Christmas parties and New Year get-togethers. In short, there’s loads to look forward to. However whilst winter draws in, you’ll naturally spend a lot more time at home, and these darker days can be a struggle for some. With that in mind, we’re going to explore some small changes you can make around your home to help uplift your well-being this winter. Self-care season starts right here.
How can design improve mental health?
You don’t have to be an expert to know that our environments play a big part in our sense of well-being. Interior designers and architects have, for years, practised what’s known as ‘human-centred design’.
In simpler terms, this concept takes into account not just the decorative elements of design, but also how people feel about being in a space. Its core aim is to improve well-being, with a focus on the users’ needs.
The good news is that this concept can easily be applied to our own homes. This week’s guide has been written to explore how achievable, uncomplicated changes to both physical design and mindfulness have the power to significantly impact our experience of darker winter months in our homes. We can’t promise summer will come around faster, but we can promise these tips will make the colder months feel better.
Light it up
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that 8 in 10 of us leave work whilst it’s still dark outside during the winter months. When the clocks change, especially with most of us working inside, we’re guilty of not getting enough sunlight exposure during the day. Natural light is key in helping to regulate our circadian rhythm - the part of our internal clock that’s responsible for signalling when we should be awake and asleep.
If you’re working from home, locate the largest sources of natural light in your place first. This could come from french doors, skylights, or just large windows. Consider moving your WFH spot closer to these areas, and rearranging any other furniture to benefit from the natural light that comes in, if you don’t work at home. This, along with your cuppa of choice is especially important in the morning to help signal to the body that it’s time to get started.
Let’s jump back to the concept of human-centred design for a moment. We’re always going to be happier in homes that meet our needs. Investing in mini self-care stations around the home is a great way to do something nice for yourself, and make that thing readily available to you when energy is low in winter months. By creating a dedicated spot for self-care, you’re on your way to good winter wellness. This looks different for everyone, but here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Restock your bathroom with your favourite bath and self-care products. Like a soak in the tub? Clear away those half-empty shampoo bottles and replace them with candles and bath salts. Maybe skin care’s your thing? Display your products on a dedicated tray in your favourite colour or pattern.
2. Revisit your living room layout by creating a dedicated chill corner. Add a cosy blanket to an armchair, along with your favourite things to read or listen to. The idea here is to give yourself a zone where you can finally get around to reading that book you’ve had your eye on, or take time out to listen to a new podcast.
3. Get creative in the kitchen and set up a grab-and-go drink or snack station with seasonal treats. Kit it out with your favourite mug and enjoy a mindful pick-me-up moment.
We’ve talked about natural light, but what about added light? Human-centred design takes this into consideration and adapts light depending on the mood desired. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to apply the same to our homes as things like smart bulbs become more accessible. Set your bulbs to a warm-toned colour in your bedroom to create a cosier feel during winter. At your desk, introduce a brighter, cool-toned light to help maintain focus during winter working-from-home days.
In the UK, we can get as little as 8 daily hours of sunlight in the height of winter, which makes it even more important to light up our interiors. Think of your lighting like the sun in summer, and programme lights to come on earlier, and turn off later, to replicate a similar schedule to that of summer. Waking up for the day is always harder when it’s dark outside, but you can give yourself a head start by investing in a sunrise alarm clock. These lamps illuminate the room and get your internal body clock up and running for those early starts.
We’ll skip the ‘screens are bad’ rhetoric here. In our daily lives, devices are pretty much essential, so this one’s about creating a zone that allows for some naturally screen-free time to take place. Maybe you’ve wanted to explore a new hobby, or practice one you’ve let fall off the bandwagon. Removing digital distractions is important all year round, but especially in winter when the temptation to binge that new Netflix drama series is strong.
Our home is pretty much the only place where we have full control over how much stimulation we’re exposed to. At work, we’re always switched on, and when not at work, we’re often guilty of not carving out time to do things for ourselves. To change this, start incorporating personal zones into your home. Dedicate an area for artwork, music, board games, gardening, or anything else you enjoy. The idea here is not to take over the whole house, but to section off a space that’s specifically for working on your passions. By making a habit of ring-fencing this space for one thing only, you’ll be cultivating a positive mindset throughout the winter months (even if it's a bit miserable and rainy outside).
We’re self-confessed candle addicts, which is why we think winter is the best time of year to discover new scents. Designing spaces for wellness isn’t just about how our homes look, it’s about taking care of all of the senses. There’s nothing quite like a home that smells great, after all.
There’s loads of choice out there - diffusers, candles and more, so take some time to find what works for you first. Choose scents like lavender and sage to encourage relaxation before bed. If it’s a boost of energy you’re after on a gloomy day, experiment with fresh scents like citrus and ginger. If you’re feeling in a more festive mood, popular scents for winter this year are amber, tobacco, cinnamon and patchouli. Get creative with different scents for different rooms of your house to feel the positive effects of human-centred design in your home this winter.