Inexpensive ways to keep your winter spirits up

3 Ways to Fight the Winter Doldrums

by Lars Sorensen

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The lack of sun exposure that often comes with a long winter can make it feel less like a wonderland and more like a long and unpleasant ordeal. Compounding the problem is the amount of time spent indoors during extended periods of blustery, overcast weather. Outdoor recreation (e.g. skiing, snow shoeing, etc.) are great ways to get outside and meet winter head-on, but if you're not into winter recreation and don't have the option of moving to a sunnier climate, a few inexpensive tweaks to your interior decor may just help to carry you through the seemingly endless gray days. The following options all cost less than $50, which is a small price to pay for keeping the blues at bay!

Option #1: Decor Made of Natural Materials

A few small, well-chosen natural pieces placed in conspicuous places can breathe a breath of fresh air into a room. Specifically, consider things like a small rug or indoor floor mat made of materials such as hemp or jute. Wicker baskets are also a lovely natural decor choice, as are rice paper lampshades with preserved flowers and/or leaves pressed into them. Hemp or jute rugs, measuring 4' X 6', can be purchased through outlets like Overstock and Wal-Mart for between $40 and $50. Two and three piece wicker basket sets can be purchased from Target for between $15 and $40, and a variety of rice paper shades can be had through Overstock for under $40.

Even better are organic items, which can be used as decor in their natural state. Think bundles of slender branches or dried grasses grouped together and placed in tall transparent vases filled with small rocks or transparent glass vases and decorative bowls filled with an assortment of sea shells (a particularly nice touch in the bathroom). Companies like Nettleton Hollow sell a wide variety of decorative branches and dried grasses in bundles often costing less than $20, while crafts and hobbies stores sell assortments of sea shells for well under $10.

Option #2: Growing Flowers and Herbs Indoors

When forging a plan to bring the outdoors inside, don't overlook the use of houseplants as a form of seasonal therapy. Not only do plants contribute visually to your decor, they also purify the air and can add a lovely and invigorating fragrance (depending on the plant). Placing herbs such as mint or rosemary on a kitchen counter or windowsill in the sun will create olfactory "decorations" that can help stimulate you out of the winter doldrums, as well as spice up your cooking. The cost for planting flowers and herbs indoors varies wildly, depending on how many planters you intend to start and the quality of the planter material.

Potting soil and seeds can be easily had for under $10, but planters can range from $1 for a plastic throwaway to $50 for a wood or terra cotta planter.

Another great option in natural aromatherapy is to burn wood-scented incense, such as cedar or pine, to create a calming, organic environment. Purifying and livening up the stagnant indoor air that can come with long, cold winters can help your mood tremendously. Incense sticks and cones often come in bundles of 15 to 20 and can be purchased for less than $15.

Option #3: Sound Decoration

This option may seem a bit strange at first blush, but having ambient white noise very quietly playing in the background can help brighten a "cooped up," gloomy interior. There are a number of ambient noise machines which play prerecorded loops of sounds found in nature, such as birds chirping, waterfalls, rain, and crickets. Most of these machines will play a number of different natural sounds to prevent listener fatigue. Companies such as SoundSpa sell machines with six different nature sounds for around $30, depending on the retailer.

Perhaps the most ideal approach to keeping winter doldrums at bay is to utilize all three techniques simultaneously, creating an interior which is livelier on multiple levels. This "all-of-the-above" approach is by no means complicated and could still cost well under $200 if you know where to find bargains (not to mention the money you'll potentially save by growing herbs indoors). A little money and a lot of imagination can prevent winter from being dreary confinement!

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