Hygge part 1 - 5 ways to use light to beat the winter blues

Winter is coming and we all know what comes with it – short days and long nights, together with cold, harsh weather.  This is the time of year when the outdoors is at its most challenging and so it’s important to make the most of the indoors.  While the Danish concept of hygge (roughly translatable as cosiness) is applicable all year round, it really comes into its own in winter, when there is such a sharp contrast between the outer world and the inner one.  Because of this, I’ll be running a series on hygge over the winter months, with posts every other week.  This week, I’ll looking at the importance of creating a positive atmosphere, focusing on the importance of light.

Top tip – think safety first

Before we get into hygge itself, I’d just like to remind people that being able to see is important from a safety perspective, so before you start applying the principles of hygge to your home, please take the time to double-check whether there’s anything you need to do to make sure you can see and be seen this winter.

Bonus tip for dog owners – I am a big fan of light-up collars.  They make it easy for me to see my dog when he is off the lead (he’s big and likes to run) and if, somehow, he did wind up trying to cross a road by himself (I can’t think how but…), he’d stand a better chance of being seen.

So, on with the hygge.  I’m going to explain five ways you can use light to help promote your health and wellness over the winter.  I’ll include links to show you what I mean but to be clear the links are normal ones, not affiliate ones, in other words, I’m not making any money out of them.  If I ever do decide to use affiliate links, I’ll be sure to let you know about it.

Light form 1 – sunrise alarm clocks

The basic idea behind these alarm clocks is that they simulate an actual sunrise, thereby coaxing you into wakefulness, rather than blasting you into consciousness (or something close to it), the way standard alarm clocks do.  Some of them have extra functionality, such as birdsong tracks and light changes and some can also simulate a sunset (although frankly I, personally, have yet to see the point of this).  It’s entirely up to you whether or not you think these extra features are worth the extra money.  I’d also like to emphasize that these alarm clocks will not be a lot of help if your general sleep habits need improvement, but if you are getting good-quality sleep and just need some extra help to get up, these could be just right.

Light form 2 – SAD lights

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is the scientific name for the old-fashioned winter blues.  It’s long been recognized that some people are adversely impacted by the lack of light in winter, but it’s only been relatively recently that science has been starting to get to grips with the reasons behind this.  SAD lights are medically-recognized and are completely different from tanning lamps.  If you’re shopping for a SAD light, be aware that if you search on the term, some of the sunrise alarm clocks I mentioned previously may come up in the results.  Make sure you double-check each item so you know exactly what it is.  Also be aware that sometimes it can take a few weeks before you really start to feel any improvement using these lamps.

Light form 3 – Himalayan salt lamps

I blundered into Himalayan salt lamps by accident.  Years ago, I bought one for my gran, purely because she liked the look of it and she kept it as an ornament.  After she died, I took it for myself and actually started to use it.  To be quite frank, I have absolutely no idea whether or not there is any truth in the idea that they clear the air and help to counterbalance the impact of electromagnetic radiation from electronic equipment.  I can, however, tell you, that my lamp gives off a very gentle, soothing light, which I find very warm and comforting and perfect for when I want to relax and think.  Mine isn’t really suitable for use as a reading light.  I haven’t seen any I think would be.  That’s not what they’re meant for.  They’re really ambient lights which may (or may not) also help to clean the air and now I absolutely love mine.

Light form 4 – candle-based essential oil diffusers and/or scented candles

I’m actually a qualified aromatherapist (although I’ve never worked at it professionally) so I’m really into the uses of essential oils and I have a great appreciation of the importance of fragrance and scent.  I, personally, love candle-based oil diffusers because of the combination of candlelight and scent, but I appreciate that this may not be a safe option for everyone, in which case I would suggest you use an electric (battery-operated) diffuser and look at other ways to benefit from ambient lighting.  As you’ve probably guessed, similar comments apply to scented candles.

NB: if you want to use essential oils, please read up on them so you understand how to store them to preserve them and how to use them safely.

Bonus tip: if you're someone who has a problem getting up on dark mornings, use citrus or menthol scents to help.  Perhaps you could make a point of lighting your diffuser as your sunlight alarm clock runs its cycle or put a few drops of essential oil on your pillow so you can breath it in as you lie there.

Light form 5 – ordinary candles and lanterns and LED lights

Like anyone and everyone else with an environmental conscience, I switch only use electricity (by which I include batteries), when I really need to and even in winter, I can’t justify significantly increasing my use of it, just because I can and it’s tempting to try to fight off the darkness outside by making full use of lights inside.  My solution is to use gentle lighting such as candles, paraffin (kerosene) lanterns and LED lights.  Again, think safety, if you have young children and/or bouncy dogs, you might want to stick with the LEDs, which don’t quite have the same quality as real candlelight (in my opinion) but are very good, can be coloured and can also be a lot safer.  They also use hardly any power, hence are an environmentally-friendly option.

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