Expert-Recommended Home-Office Hacks For Anyone Battling The Winter Blues

From light therapy to foldable yoga mats, experts break down how to increase the positivity in your workspace.
Happy Lamp, shadow box and desk organizer.

If you have seasonal depression, working from home can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you get to wear comfy clothes and sleep through your previous commute time. On the other, it’s easy for a week to go by without ever going outside as laundry, dishes and expense reports pile up around you.

Though the short days of winter can feel totally hopeless, Anita A. Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Chicago, said there are many small daily modifications you can make to help you navigate seasonal depression — including (but not limited to) improving your environment. Sitting by a window, keeping motivational quotes around the house and sprucing up your workspace can boost your mood as you work from home. “A slight change can make a big difference,” Chlipala, also the author of “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love,” told HuffPost.

Carla Marie Manly, a practicing psychologist and author of “Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend,” explained that while many people feel down or blue during the colder months, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a “major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern.”

“SAD tends to significantly dampen mood [and] depress interest in regular activities even simple activities can feel much harder to navigate,” Manly said. “When suffering from SAD, everyday tasks that are normally completed with ease can feel like mountainous projects.”

If you’re dealing with SAD or just feeling low in the winter, Manly suggested speaking with a therapist and checking in with your primary care doctor to potentially get lab tests or medication.

Light (both sunlight and electric) can be an effective tool in dealing with SAD, Manly explained. “Light therapy devices — sometimes termed SAD light boxes — are an effective, research-backed method of treating SAD,” she said. “Many models are aesthetically appealing and offer mood-boosting effects along with a dose of visual appeal.”

When everyday tasks feel totally overwhelming, it can be impossible to find the motivation to get out of bed and start working. Grace Huntley, a psychotherapist at Grace Huntley Counseling, recommended making things easier for yourself when you can. “If something can be automated, that’s great — set those coffee timers!” Huntley told HuffPost. ”If someone offers to step in and help you do something that feels particularly difficult, now’s the time to take them up on it. If you have the means to hire outside help to get things done like cleaning the apartment or doing laundry, then give yourself that option.”

Whether or not you have an official SAD diagnosis, revamping your workspace can help you create healthy routines, uplift your mood and make daily tasks feel more doable, experts said. Coupled with things like therapy, medication and other lifestyle modifications, it can be a useful tool. To help you get a jump start on refreshing your work-from-home space, we asked therapists and a few of our favorite interior designers for their tips for upgrading the vibes at your desk during the long and cold winter months.

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Sit by the window or hang a mirror to catch the light
"If you have a window in your office, consider placing either a desk or chair close to the window and begin your day there absorbing the sunlight," said Larina Kase, founder of Larina Kase Interior Design, who also holds a doctorate in psychology. "If you don't have a window or the natural light is limited, use a mirror to bounce around the light and brighten the space."

This gorgeous circular wall mirror comes in five sizes and nine border colors.
Spruce up the walls
"Your office does not need to be boring," Michelle Gage, founder and creative director of Michelle Gage Interiors, told HuffPost. "Select pieces that speak to your personal style. Spice up the space with some botanical wallpaper."

This peel-and-stick eucalyptus-pattern wallpaper is easy to install and comes in four roll sizes.
Get some plants (yes, fake ones count)
"Plants have a positive impact on mood and remind us that spring is around the corner," Kase said. "If the maintenance of plants is too much, there are now great quality artificial plants. A vase of fresh flowers is always great as well."

It's no secret that Target has an amazing selection of artificial plants, like this 21-inch artificial Monstera that comes in a ceramic pot.
Boost the light
"Light matters," Huntley said. "If you find yourself particularly affected by lack of sunlight, you may want to invest in a HappyLight for some at-home light therapy."

This full-spectrum light therapy lamp has four brightness levels and three color temperature options.
Swap for 2700K LED lightbulbs
"Consider the warmth of your lightbulbs, as the bluer lights are more dreary," Kase said. "I recommend 2700K LED lightbulbs for the soft warm light."
Layer your light
"Layered lighting can also help, so think beyond the desk lamp," Gage said. "Get yourself a nice floor lamp and overhead fixture to bring more light into the room."

This hanging glass shade floor lamp comes with two styles of lightbulbs and has an easy-access switch you can simply step on.
Upgrade your chair
"Set up your workspace with ergonomics in mind to minimize pain and discomfort, which adds to depressed mood," Kase said. "This means that you have a chair that fits you well so that your feet are flat on the ground."

This ergonomic mesh office chair has an adjustable headrest, flip-up arms, lumbar support and thousands of positive reviews.
Ensure your wrists are supported
"Your wrists should have room to rest on a desk and not float in the air," Kase said. "Your forearms should be parallel to the ground with wrists in a straight line."

This memory foam keyboard and mouse wrist pad set comes in seven colors and will keep your arm supported.
Or spring for some fun furniture
"Think beyond the desk," Gage said. "I love incorporating other functional setups for laptop work – like a rattan daybed or a velvet armchair."

This eye-catching accent chair is elevated but inviting and comes in dark green and blue.
Try to de-clutter your work space
"Set your workspace up to minimize clutter," Kase said. "Clutter can make us feel overwhelmed and behind, which contributes to a depressed mood. If you need to have piles of things to get to keep them out of your constant sight. This will minimize guilt and boost productivity, which always boosts mood."

This mesh desk organizer has five upright sections, a pull-out drawer and a section for pens and supplies.
Make a vision board (really)
"Create a vision board for the short-term," Chlipala said. "It can be very difficult to find motivation when one is experiencing SAD, so a vision board with short-term dreams and goals might give you a boost of inspiration."

Don't worry about finding scissors or glue or making a huge mess you'll eventually have to clean up — this no-mess vision board set comes with 100 double-sided cards with motivational quotes and images and a folded display board.
Keep a journal in easy reach
"Practices such as journaling and short meditation sessions can reduce the stress and anxiety that often mount for SAD sufferers," Manly said. "It’s important to experiment with a nonjudgmental attitude to find the tools that work well for you. SAD symptoms often fluctuate depending on internal and external factors, so strive to embrace and attitude of flexibility to create appropriate shifts in your routines."
Keep a yoga mat around
"If possible, keep a yoga mat or exercise equipment nearby and set a timer to remind you to take short, mood-boosting exercise breaks," Manly said.

This foldable yoga mat measures 68 inches by 24 inches when extended and 10 inches by 12 inches when folded. It comes in five colors.
Invest in a foldable, under desk treadmill
"A walking desk can eliminate the block of going to the gym," Chlipala said. "I talk with my clients about lowering their expectations, whether it's the number of tasks they can accomplish in one day to what they can do for their self-care. So if a high-intensity workout is too much to consider, you can still get some benefits from exercise by walking."

HuffPost Wellness editor Lindsay Holmes loves her Walkingpad folding treadmill, which fits nicely under a desk or couch and is notably noise free.
Try to center yourself in the present
"Enjoy the present," Huntley said. "Ground yourself with an electronic hand warmer and keep your coffee or team warm with a mug warmer."
Make your office a little more vibey
"Create a level of ambiance with aromatherapy or a sound machine," Huntley said.

Huntley recommends this Magicteam white noise machine with 20 non-looping natural sounds and this LED changing color light essential oil diffuser and humidifier.
Display some happy memories
"Personal mementos are great for boosting positivity," Kase said. "You can include framed photos of loved ones, souvenirs from trips, family heirlooms or other meaningful items. It can be anything that makes you smile."

This real wood shadow box measures 11 inches by 16.5 inches and has an inner linen-lined pad you can use push pins on.
Keep your tasks at eye level
"Get Post-It notes and keep your daily tasks to three to five things," Chlipala said. "It’s not uncommon to feel so overwhelmed or unmotivated that you end up not doing anything. Keeping it small on a Post-it note increases the chances that you’ll complete the task, which may make you want to move on to the next one."

Before You Go

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