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Do It Better: Maximize Light during December’s Short Days

By Joyce Venezia Suss

It’s December in the Northern Hemisphere – the month with the shortest amount of daylight, and cold weather that keeps people indoors. Each day until Dec. 21, the sun sets earlier, and it can be challenging to feel energetic. Instead of hiding under a blanket, try these tips to maximize the light in your home and help your health.

Let the Sun Shine in

Keep windows free of clutter. If possible, remove window screens and make sure the glass is clean. Open curtains during daylight hours, but close curtains and/or shades at night to keep the warmth inside.

Add More Lights to your Home

Many December holidays occur near the Winter Solstice, and decorations typically include electric lights and candles that light up the darkness. If your main living areas seem dark, add table and floor lamps to increase the illumination, especially in corners. Swap dim lightbulbs with bright, energy-efficient versions. Look for full-spectrum light bulbs that are closer to natural sunlight than other bulbs. In areas where you usually read or work with natural sunlight during warmer months, add a desk lamp.

Be Mindful of Too Much Light 

If you flood rooms with lamplight, gradually start turning lights off as the evening progresses, so your body will recognize that bed time approaches.

Mirrors are a Strategic Trick

They help fill a room with natural light. Hang a mirror across from or perpendicular to a window, so the light bounces off the reflective surface and hits other spaces.

Light Candles

Candles add a warm glow to any room. If safety is a concern, try flameless candles. If you have a fireplace but don’t want to burn logs, fill the inner hearth with candles instead.

White isn’t Just for Summer 

Dark furniture and upholstery can be brightened with white or light-colored accents in the form of pillows, soft blankets, tablecloth, area rug, even slipcovers.

Beat the Blues

Many people feel some kind of “winter blues,” and some are ultimately diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms can be eased with a light therapy lightbox (Lumie is a popular brand) that mimics outdoor light. Another option: “wake-up” lamps that slowly increase light to act like the sun is rising in your bedroom.  

Get Outside on Sunny Days

Pull on a warm coat, hat and gloves, and take a walk outside when the sun is shining, especially if you work inside from sun up to sun down. Natural daylight increases serotonin levels that improve your well-being. Even a short walk is better than staying inside.

Paint the Eaves of your House White

The overhangs of your roof that angle toward your house can reflect light into rooms when the sun hits them, and white is the best reflective color. If your eaves are now a dark color, make a note to paint them when the weather gets warmer.

Finally, here’s a bright thought: Be glad you live in New Jersey. On Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, Monmouth County will have about nine hours and 15 minutes of daylight. In northern Scotland, some towns will get only one hour of sunlight.

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