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Beat those winter blues with some vibrant hues: How modifying your environment can brighten your mood

Did you know that, in a study of the gambling habits of New York residents, people were more likely to buy a lottery ticket following particularly sunny days? Now, this may just seem like one of those interesting throw-away facts, like “you’re statistically more likely to be killed by a vending machine than a shark”, but it’s actually a perfect example of how our surroundings significantly impact our moods and outlooks on life. In this case, brighter days actually caused the residents of the Big Apple to brighten their outlook as well, making them feel more lucky than usual. That being said, we’re not so much interested in how the weather causes New Yorkers to make unwise financial decisions as we are in how these concepts can be used to lift your mood during these gloomy months.    

Lighting can have a real impact on your mood. If you’ve ever sat beneath the buzzing incandescent lights at the DMV, resisting the urge to tear your hair out, you know what I mean. Bright lights with cooler tones are ideal for productivity and alertness. In fact blue light is believed to reduce levels of the sleep-related hormone melatonin, making you feel more awake. While this kind of light may be ideal for waking up or work environments, it can contribute to insomnia and unnecessary tension when you’re trying to relax. In these situations warmer tones, closer to the yellow side of the color spectrum, are preferable. To incorporate this into your living space, you can try replacing our normal light bulbs with smart color-changing bulbs you can program to shift to cooler tones during the day and warmer ones in the evening. Habit changes can also help. Device screens, like those on smartphones and laptops, often emit significant amounts of blue light, so avoiding use in the evening could go a long way in helping you relax before bed. But, if you absolutely cannot avoid checking Facebook one last time before bed, you can always try using a pair of blue light glasses that will help filter out the blue light emitted from your device.

With more and more of us living in cities, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for many to find peace and quiet. Blaring sirens and the banging of construction work have a tendency to slowly chip away at one’s sanity. In fact, in a 2011 World Health Organization report, it was found that environmental noise from planes, trains, vehicles, and other sources, were linked to health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children, and annoyance. In Europe alone, it was estimated that one million healthy years of life were lost to noise pollution each year. While daytime noise is annoying, it’s primarily nighttime noise that impacts your health. Human ears are very sensitive, so, even if it doesn’t wake you up, noise can erode the quality of your rest. As you sleep, your ears are picking up and transmitting signals to your brain, potentially triggering your body’s acute stress response. In sleep studies, residents living near airports or busy roads had a higher incidence of headaches, took more sleeping pills and sedatives, were more prone to minor accidents, and were more likely to seek psychiatric treatment. So, how do you prevent that 5am dumpster truck from slowly driving you insane? Well, an easy fix is to simply wear earplugs. They may take some getting used to, but the payoff when you wake up is more than worth it. Earplugs not really your thing? You may want to try using a white noise machine. This may seem counterintuitive, but having a consistent background noise can actually help you sleep. This is because it’s the spikes in noise that disturb us (e.g. going from absolute silence to a barking dog). By maintaining a consistent noise level, sudden loud noises have smaller impact, helping your rest.

If you’ve ever woken up congested or gone for a jog during wildfire season, you know that air quality is important. From pollen, to smoke, to pollution, particles in the air can have a dramatic affect on your quality of life. Even if you’re not choking on smoke or having an allergic reaction, airborne particles can affect your mood. In a study on the topic, researches found that social media posts became more negative on days with higher PM 2.5 (airborne particulates) concentrations. Even worse, poor air quality is also linked to lower productivity and impaired health. And, it isn’t just outdoor air you have to be concerned about. Indoor air quality actually tends to be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air quality. This is because pollutants outdoors can be carried away by the wind and diffuse, while indoor air is trapped. In winter months, this can be especially bad with so many of us spending more time indoors. Add to that smoke from candles and fireplaces, poor ventilation from closed doors and windows, and dust from old furnace filters and it’s no wonder winter can feel so glum. To boost your air quality and, perhaps, your mood along with it, you may want to consider an air purifier for your home. It may also be useful to invest in an air quality monitor to measure airborne particulates so that you know exactly what’s irritating your lungs and polluting your home. 


Winter has its pitfalls, but, if you can get past the obstacles, it can truly be the most Wynderful time of the year! We hope you found this article helpful and that these tips brighten your mood…just don’t go buying a lottery ticket because of it…;)

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