Now that the holidays are over, how do you keep your home warm, cheery and bright through the gloom of winter?
With the festivities of the holidays behind us and the cold, darkness of January weighing on us, spring can feel like a long, long way off. But don’t despair. Here are five ideas for keeping up a warm, festive atmosphere in your home all winter long:
1) Fill your home with festive scents.
Tired of scented candles? Try this quick and easy option to leave your home smelling fresh. Boil a pot of water on the stove and add anything from lemons and cinnamon sticks to pine needles and fresh herbs. You’ll have an instant humidifier and festive scents in one.
Want to incorporate some stress relief? Diffusing essential oils are the perfect way to reduce stress and add new scents to the air. One study found that using essential oils from pine trees relieved stress and depression.
Other favorites: Peppermint oil has been known to relieve tension headaches and lavender doubles as a calming agent and sleeping aid. Add oil to a bath, apply it directly onto your skin, or invest in an oil burner with a tea candle to move the fragrance throughout a room.
2) Add more light.
This time of year, it can be depressing to wake up before the sun rises. Around 6 percent of the US population, especially those in northern climates, are impacted by seasonal affective disorder, and another 10 to 20 percent experience more mild versions of seasonal mood changes.
One effective treatment is light therapy. Traditional light therapy lamps use fluorescent light with diffusing screens that filter out ultraviolet rays. Doctors recommend using them in the morning for 30 to 90 minutes. Light therapy lamps are cheap and easy to find, costing anywhere from $30 and up.
A new trend is light machines that simulate the dawn by gradually increasing the intensity of light in the mornings before you wake up. Studies have found that simulating early morning light decreases seasonal affective disorder for several days. People sleep better and report improved moods throughout the day. You can find cheap multi-functional dawn simulators that also work as alarm clocks and white noise machines, and sunset simulators to help you go to sleep, as well.
3) Seal your heating ducts.
Sealing and insulating your heating ducts can dramatically improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. If you use a gas furnace, it can also reduce the risk of gas flowing back into your living space instead of being expelled outside.
Prioritize the ducts running through easily-accessed unheated spaces, such as the attic, crawl space and unheated basements or garages. Check for air leaks and apply mastic sealant or metal tape, then wrap the ducts in insulation. Learn more about duct sealing from ENERGY STAR.
4) Add more bright colors.
Rich, bright colors shouldn’t be reserved for the summer. With less color naturally found in nature this time of year, take charge and add color inside your home to turn it into a festive winter retreat. Throw pillows are an inexpensive way to add color to your living spaces, and matching throws add warmth and zest. Use faux fur rugs to keep your feet warm and happy.
Replace holiday decorations with winter wreaths. A timeless red berry wreath adds lush color and celebrates the beauty of the season. Various arrangements work inside and outside the home.
Another holiday replacement? Your kid’s artwork! Days off from school is the perfect time to pull out the finger paints or other craft supplies to add new works of art to your walls and fridge. Check out these 13 winter art projects for kids.
5) Invest in a programmable or smart thermostat.
According to ENERGY STAR, a programmable thermostat is perfect for families who are away from home for extended periods of time during the week and it can save you up to $180 a year in energy costs. ENERGY STAR advises homeowners to turn down the heat at least 8 degrees when you’re gone and while you’re sleeping. Set the timer to increase the heat before you wake up and return home. Invest in a 7-day model if you’re daily schedule changes throughout the week.
A smart thermostat, such as Nest, goes above and beyond other programmable options. These thermostats can program themselves based on your habits, automatically change settings with the seasons, and can provide reports and alerts if something seems wrong, such as temperatures so low that your pipes could burst.