a lantern in the snow

It’s not officially winter yet, but the days in North America are already getting shorter.

There are many of us who don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but who still feel sluggish and irritable when the days are short. I find it helpful to do a little DIY SAD therapy. I’m certainly not the only one who’s tempted to curl up with a cup of tea and a book until Spring rolls around. Here’s what I do each winter to make it a little bit easier to get out of bed each morning and be productive during the day.

Let the sunshine in

privacy film on a window

It’s a little unnerving to look out the window and see someone right across the courtyard; privacy film solves that problem without blocking the light.

We’re starting with the obvious, but don’t jump ship yet.

Do your best to get 15 minutes in the sun each day. Can you sit by a sunny window? It’s worth it to rearrange the furniture to maximize sunlight if you can.

Don’t like the view or need a little privacy? Privacy film allows me to keep my blinds open without putting myself on display.

Create your own sunshine

I took the idea of artificial sunrise pretty literal and set up a model of the solar system with the sun on a timer.

I took the idea of artificial sunrise pretty literal and set up a model of the solar system with the sun on a timer.

I have a really hard time waking up in the morning without sunlight. They sell nifty little alarm clocks that simulate the sunrise, but I do just fine setting a lantern on a timer. A word of caution – some timers will make a little clicking sound, so get a digital one if you’re sensitive to noise. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and makes a huge difference in my mornings.

a woman using a sad therapy light

People swear by SAD therapy lamps, but they cost hundreds of dollars.

Friends swear by their professional SAD lamps, but I wasn’t ready to spend $400 on a light therapy box. Instead, I replaced my light bulbs with brighter daylight bulbs. These CREE daylight bulbs do an amazing job of making my apartment feel sunny. If the $10 per bulb price tag seems a little steep, you can get these fluorescent daylight bulbs at a more reasonable price.

Add some greenery

a plant on a shelf

This plant is doing just fine without any natural light.

Plants cheer up a room and improve air quality. Plants are great at helping to balance the amount of moisture in the air and filter out harmful chemicals that are found in many homes. Luckily, there are plants out there that are hardy enough to survive almost anything. The standard plants you find at most chain stores are a safe bet.

Pothos are my favorite easy plant – you can snip off a branch from a friend’s plant, pop it into any container of water, and it’ll survive for months without any attention. They do just fine even without natural light.

Spruce things up

The winter months keep us inside much of the time, so it’s important to make sure our space is as comfortable as possible.

Most of us are never going to have a clutter-free home. When my apartment is full of clutter it really stresses me out – and poses a tripping hazard. I have myself trained to put things away when I’m done with them. I also have designated ‘clutter zones’ to keep it in check. There’s one spot on my desk for things that are in process, a basket next to the door for things I need to bring out or put away, and space to empty my pockets on my bedside table.

It’s easy to end up with duplicates of things, so I like to switch paintings, rugs, and knickknacks around when the days get shorter. This is a great time to take a look at what you have in the basement or back of the closet that can brighten up your decor. There’s no need to buy new things when you can simply re-arrange what you have.


These DIY tips are helpful for people who feel sluggish when winter hits, but aren’t adequate help for people who could be diagnosed with SAD. If you’re experiencing serious depression or SAD is interfering with your life, it’s time to see a doctor. Serious problems call for professional treatment.

Written by Cori Carl
As Director, Cori is an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for people providing care.

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