These are dark times — literally. From now until the winter solstice, the days will only get shorter. I have mixed emotions when daylight saving time ends each year. Popping out of bed full of energy at my usual wake-up time to be met by sunlight is something to celebrate. But seeing evenings dip into late afternoons and steal away minutes can be depressing. It always takes me awhile to adjust. Here are some ways to embrace the dark evening hours and take advantage of the change.

Related: Her Home Is Her Therapist

Put lights on timers. Leaving for work before it’s light out and arriving home to a dark house is not a good feeling. Whether you have everything in your house rigged up to your smartphone or you buy an old-fashioned plug-in timer at the hardware store, make sure there’s a light or two on to greet you when you pull up in the evening. 

NightOrbs, llc., original photo on Houzz

Turn on your outdoor lights a little early. These orb lights are the ultimate in cheering up a dark evening, but it doesn’t have to be this complicated. My mom turns on her exterior lights just before sunset. “That way, I feel like I can still enjoy my garden out the window and forget that it’s pitch-black outside at 5 p.m.,” she says.

Keep the fire pit going. My friends Kathy and Rob don’t let Boston winters stop them from hosting “Fire Pit.” Fire Pit means that after they put their son to bed, they light the fire pit in their backyard, whereupon their immediate neighbors see the smoke signal and come over with beer. When it snows, they dig out the fire pit right after they finish the driveway and front walk to keep this social hour going. 

ANA Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Adjust your workout. If you’re used to exercising outdoors after work, my condolences. Try to get out first thing in the morning or during lunch to soak up that vitamin D if you can. In the evenings, seek out a good pickup game, finally go to that barre class, take lessons in a sport you’ve always wanted to try or stream some yoga.

Resist TV and crank up the tunes. For me, it’s hard not to turn on the TV and veg out as soon as it gets dark outside. This is fine in the summer when it’s not dark until after 9 p.m., but when it’s dark at 5 p.m., it’s a terrible habit. Try to keep the TV off until at least 8 p.m. — prime time. If the darkness has you down, skip the news.

Instead of TV, enjoy some music while you work on projects, cook, do laundry, read, clean and catch up on work. And don’t just put on the same tunes you always listen to. Stream a channel based on a band you loved 20 years ago but had forgotten about, put your iTunes on shuffle, do a deep dive into a genre you don’t usually listen to or try out a friend’s playlist.

DREAMHOUSE decorations, original photo on Houzz

Arrange some blossoms. Treat yourself to fresh flowers. A $3.99 bunch from the grocery store will give you a lift when you walk into the room no matter how dark it is outside. 

Host fun nights. Have a bunch of friends over to do something you all enjoy together: clothing or magazine swaps, jam sessions, quilting bees, game nights, Bunco, book group, cooking together, craft beer tasting, game watching. If you don’t have a group that already gets together for something you enjoy, start one and plan to meet up on a regular basis.

sullivan + associates architects, original photo on Houzz

Light a fire. Flickering firelight is one of the best things about a cold winter’s night. Whether you’re working on a crossword puzzle, chatting or serving dinner, do it in the room with the fireplace. 

Related: Keep the Fire Burning With These Fireplace Accessories

Make time for relaxation. One advantage of short days is that you’re completely justified in putting on your favorite pajama pants the second the sun goes down if you feel like it. You also don’t have to feel guilty about taking a nice hot shower or having a soak at 6 p.m. if it’s dark outside. Grab a good book, sprinkle in some lavender Epsom salts and you’ll be happy that night has arrived.

Amanda Carol Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Have a dinner party and serve tiny gourds. Just kidding — I just really like this tablescape, and we could all use a laugh!

Original article written by Becky Harris on Houzz.