3 Things Science Says You Should Clean & Declutter to Snap Yourself Out of the Winter Blues

published Feb 14, 2018
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

The season of winter cheer is over, Groundhog Day is past us (Phil saw his shadow, by the way) and we’re left to stare down a few more weeks of cold and darkness with holiday bills still to pay down. But don’t let winter get you down without a fight. Here are some ways to combat the winter doldrums right in your own home.

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

1. Clean your windows and curtains.

Most of the difficulties brought on by a severe form of winter blues, called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), stem from a lack of light. So it makes sense that one of the top ways to combat the winter blues is to get more light. Harvard Health Publishing puts it this way:

If lack of sunlight causes or contributes to seasonal affective disorder, then getting more light may reverse it. Bright light works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating the hypothalamus at a certain time every day can restore a normal circadian rhythm and thus banish seasonal symptoms.

Whether you live in a place with a drastic reduction in daylight hours or find yourself affected by even a subtle change, maximizing the light you do receive in your house is the first step to enjoying as much sunlight as you can.

Cleaning your window dressings and windows will not only make you want to throw open your shades, but will also allow every one of those healing rays into your home. Start by taking down your curtains and washing them if you can. Otherwise, vacuum them. Steaming them can also freshen them up. Dust any blinds. Finally, clean your window panes, at least the inside, and the outside as well, weather permitting.

(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

2. Declutter your pantry and fridge.

Another common effect of winter blues is that we crave sweets and other carb-laden, comfort foods. (Cinnamon rolls and melty mac and cheese, anyone?) Indulging in such cravings, combined with a lack of exercise during cold months, can lead to significant weight gain. While these kinds of foods may temporarily make us feel cozy and comforted, they end up causing sugar crashes and the weight gain that occurs with SAD. Psychology Today explains:

Sweets and simple carbs, like rice, bread, and pasta, can all spike your insulin levels and send your system into a tailspin. These insulin spikes are never ideal, but they can also negatively affect your mood level. When those sugar and carb cravings strike, reach instead for a piece of fruit or foods that are high in protein and good fats. This will curb your craving, and also provide your brain the nourishment to keep your body healthy, stable, and happy.

Organizing the places where you store your food will set you up for success when it comes to choosing foods that will boost your mood in a healthful and long-lasting way. You could start by packing up leftover holiday treats and giving them away.

Then clean out your fridge and pantry. Stock up on feel-good foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and salmon. Incorporate items into your meal plans and keep snack foods at eye-level so you remember to reach for them when you turn to food for solace.

Some Tips for Cleaning, Organizing, and Stocking Up

Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate. The Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science says: “Chocolate has a strong effect on mood, generally increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension.”

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

3. Tidy up any spot that stresses you out.

In “15 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues,” Psych Central suggests that you can boost your mood just by identifying a particular spot of clutter as a stressor and clearing it out of the way.

Yes, your environment has an impact on your mood. Piles of mail and counters filled with clutter contribute to overwhelm and fatigue. A nice, neat space can be surprisingly helpful when you’re feeling down. If you’re lacking the motivation and energy to clean, just spend five minutes tidying up to get started.

Sounds simple, right? With this in mind, pick one spot that stresses you out (for me, that would usually be my desk, the kitchen counters, or the mudroom), and spend some concentrated time picking it up to pick yourself up until spring.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 3 Things You Can Clean & Declutter to Snap Yourself Out of the Winter Blues

What are you doing to snap yourself out of the winter blues?