Daylight saving time runs from March through November, giving us later sunrises and sunsets. Then, for reasons I will never understand, we go back to “normal” time, where we reach pitch-black night around 4:30 in parts of the country during the winter months. As we fight over getting rid of daylight saving time altogether versus simply making it permanent, we may be losing sight of the true enemy: Winter itself. The days are getting darker, which can make sitting at your desk feel a whole lot more burdensome.
In the spirit of making your workspace less bleak, and maybe even turning it into a peaceful refuge, here are a few things that can help. Aside from a well-stocked snack drawer and a picture of your family/significant other/best friends/pet, of course.
Drinking more water has turned into a preoccupation that has yielded fancy water bottles, apps that track hydration, and even a Twitter account. Rather than just keeping a water bottle at your desk, make it feel a bit fancy with a bedside carafe. Fill the carafe with water, and pour into a real glass (how classy!) for sipping.
Plus you only really need to fill up the carafe twice to get close to your recommended water consumption. If you’d really like to minimize trips to the office kitchen sink, get a 64-ounce filtered water pitcher that’s attractive enough to leave out on your desk all day.
Warm drinks are a perfect antidote to dreary, cold days. If you want to be able to leisurely sip on the hot beverage of your choice, however, you’re in a race against time. Ember makes a fancy cup warmer that really does work, but there are budget-friendly options as well. Mr. Coffee makes a very affordable and well-rated version that costs $11. Of course, a nice insulated flask also gives similar results, but there’s something cozier about sipping from an actual mug.
Mmm, winter. Not only does it bring darker days, but it also brings dry weather that can crack skin and irritate throats. A mini diffuser allows you to add some moisture back into the air. You can also add some essential oil drops, but this is where you have to tread very, very carefully. Shared spaces and office smells are contentious. If you have your own office, however, a few drops of soothing rosemary or invigorating lemongrass can make your workplace feel like a mini spa. (Panpipe music not required.)
“Self-care” may have turned into meaningless marketing jargon in the past few years, but I do think there’s something that feels almost indulgent about taking less than a minute to do a little care for yourself. While most of us can’t install a massage chair or nap pod near our desk, there are still ways.
Hand or cuticle creams, lip balms, and face sprays provide can all provide a refreshing 30-second break. Tins are especially good for leaving out on your desk where you can see them, providing a visual reminder to use them (and extend your manicure in the process).
If your office gets nippy in the winter (or summer, or just year-round, because all seem equally likely) a dedicated office outer layer is a must. Sweaters and jackets are fine, but I like an oversized scarf that can be used as a shawl and even lap blanket. The vibes are a little Christian Girl Fall, but it also folds up very flat and can be hung from the back of your desk chair when not in use.
While therapy lamps shouldn’t be used as a primary treatment for things like seasonal depression, there’s evidence that they can be great for increasing energy and brightening your mood. There are tons on the market, but this one’s small footprint is great for desks.
A framed picture of special people or places is almost a given for making a happier desk, but adding a photo clip or two can also make it easier to rotate out things. Favorite pictures, postcards, and mantras can all be easily be swapped out, as desired. Changing up what goes in keeps them from becoming something you forget to actually look at and appreciate.
To-do lists can be written on anything: envelopes, the back of your hand, your phone. But a nice notepad that’s meant to be displayed as well as used is a much neater way to do it. Plus, there’s something about leaving a nice notepad out that reminds you to make the list in the first place. Planners that can also be started (and stopped) whenever on a week-to-week basis are also great for the fitfully organized.
Plants make us happy. But killing a plant is not a way to happiness. Succulents are, in theory, pretty easy to keep alive. But, at least from the experiences of my friends and myself, they are pretty easy to murder with overwatering as well. I’ve had a lot of luck with snake plants, which also thrive on neglect and can be a bit more forgiving to an excess of water every once and a while. (But seriously: You’re better to err on the side of not watering these.)
For an even simpler option, I’ve also taking clippings a few inches long of hearty vines, like Pothos, and put them in a mason jar. You can top the jar off with water once a week (or less) and you’ll be fine.
Ideally, your office manager should be able to order a footrest or additional lumbar support for you. If you’re not sure, it’s very much worth asking. But if you can’t get one purchased for you, it might very well be worth the investment to get one for yourself. If you like to kick back, you can even get a footrest with an included bar for reclining. Lumbar cushions are also like the mattress pads of office chairs: it’s like getting a whole new seat for a fraction of the price. If you have to sit for eight or so hours a day, you might as well feel better doing it.