It’s getting dark earlier now, as we head towards the crisp snap of November air. Days at work, as a result, can feel longer: You’re leaving the office and it’s already nearly nighttime. Those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder begin to experience the effects during the fall, according to the Mayo Clinic. And even if you don’t have SAD, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed this time of year, as we begin to think about the holidays ahead. Luckily, science shows us that there are things we can do right in our own homes to increase our happiness and well-being.
These relaxing activities, backed by research, can turn a stressful day into a calm night with minimal time and effort. They utilize common household amenities and take place around the house, too — you can use one of these ideas (or all of them) tonight.
Take a hot bath
This may sound like a familiar recommendation — but it’s now backed by science. A small new study by researchers at the University of Freiburg found that a hot afternoon bath just twice a week had a significant, positive effect on depressive symptoms in study participants. The onset of that symptom relief was quicker than the relief provided by a control group, at two weeks compared to eight. The reason for the effect, the study authors postulate, is that a warm bath helps increase core temperature and thus synchronizes circadian rhythm, a struggle for some depression sufferers. Even if you can’t follow the study’s procedure and get home to bathe in the afternoon, try to take your bath as soon as you get home from work: The study explains that our best sleep happens when core body temperature is low, so practicing circadian-rhythm synchronizing through the heat of the tub is better done farther away from bedtime.
Throw some lavender essential oil in your bath
When I couldn’t sleep as a child, my mom used to sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on my pillow — it would, she said, help me relax. The idea, which she brought across the Atlantic from Eastern Europe, isn’t unique to my family: lavender pillows and candles abound. Science, this week, has caught up with the popular appeal and relaxing association many of us have with the herb: a new studyreveals that smelling vaporized lavender, or more specifically, the compound linaloo that it contains, has a calming effect. There are plenty of ways to harness this research to help achieve maximum evening relaxation, including my mother’s trick of lavender essential oil on your pillow, but a great option is also putting some drops of the oil in your bath — why not double up your benefits?
Listen to the Song “Weightless” by Marconi Union
While research has shown that listening to music in general can have mental health benefits, there’s one song that can reduce stress by up to 65 percent, according to reporting by Melanie Curtin. The song was actually formulated with this relaxing effect in mind, through consultation between the band Marconi Union and sound therapists. So queue it up during your lavender-scented bath and enjoy: warm, fragrant, and serenaded, you may find yourself reaching maximum relaxation.