Color GuideWe not only miss the light during the winter months; we also miss color: the red of roses and rhododendrons, the green of grasses and trees, the yellow of daisies and daffodils, and the bright purple of pansies and lilacs. During the fall, as daylight shortens, our environment shifts from brilliant color to browns and grays. And our winter stretches into more grays and lots of white!

We can increase our exposure to light by sitting next to windows, getting outdoors more, using a light box, etc.  We can increase our exposure to color as well. This can have a positive effect on our mood, our perspective, and our overall sense of wellbeing.

Here are several ways to increase color at home and at work:

  • House Plants: Bring color into your environment with cyclamen, African violet, hibiscus, ivy, and countless others. Google “colorful indoor houseplants” for more ideas.  For those without a green thumb, Google “easy to care for houseplants”.
  • Visit your local florist. Surround yourself with color and fragrance. Browse slowly. Get some advice on plants that will thrive in your particular location.
  • Check out used clothing stores for bold and bright fabrics. Make your own tablecloths or runners. Don’t worry about hemming them; just iron under the edge, or let it fringe.
  • We tend to wear dark clothing in the winter. Switch it up and do the opposite. Go for colorful.  It will not only brighten your day; it will brighten others’ as well!
  • Visit the National Geographic website, or any other site that features photography.  Feast your eyes on tropical fish, lush flowers, the food and customs of other cultures, the glorious vistas. Choose your favorite picture and make it your computer background. Print some of the photos and hang them on your wall.
  • Are you in the habit of stopping for a coffee, a soda, a scratch ticket? Stop for fresh cut flowers instead.  There’s nothing like coming home to a bouquet of brilliant color. It will last for many days if you keep it watered and cut back the stems periodically.
  • Save up those coffee pennies and spend them on something colorful at your favorite home furnishings store: couch pillows, something for the walls, shams for your bed.
  • Take an old window frame and replace the glass panes with colorful pictures.
  • Get outdoors at sunset as often as possible. Or stand by a large window.  Winter sunsets (and sunrises) are some of the most dramatic and colorful, in part because there’s not much competition!
  • Finally, see if you can develop an appreciation for winter colors: the intensely deep blue of the sky, the different shades of white and gray, the brown of bare branches against the snow, and the brilliant light of the afternoon sun as it slants across the horizon, so low in the west.

Linda Patterson, LICSW, is a counselor in the Employee and Family Assistance Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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