Winter can be a difficult time, with the colder weather and shorter days affecting how we feel. This winter could be particularly difficult for many as the cost-of-living crisis places extra pressure on our finances. Whatever the reason for feeling down, there are many things we can do to help maintain and improve our mental health. We’ve pulled together some of our top tips to help you beat the winter blues.
Step into nature
Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. There are many ways to connect with nature. You could try growing plants or food, exercising outdoors, learning to forage, bird watching, walking, or even stargazing.
Break a sweat
Mental health goes hand in hand with physical health. While the dark evenings make it difficult to get outside, there are plenty of free workout videos online allowing you to exercise at home. You could also try activities such as yoga or pilates. If you decide to exercise outside, make sure you have the right gear to stay warm and exercise safely.
Embrace the cold
Although not for everyone, studies have found that cold water swimming can help improve our mental health and sense of wellbeing. Immersing yourself in cold water increases the production of mood-elevating hormones like dopamine, serotonin and beta-endorphins. It’s also a great chance to connect with like-minded people through local swimming communities.
Make the most of the daylight
Exposure to light is important during the shorter daylight hours. Make sure to open curtains and blinds during the day, making a conscious effort to let in as much sunlight as possible. Get outside when you can and make time for it during the day – even a short 15-minute walk can help.
Be open with others
It’s important to reach out and talk to people when you’re struggling. Be open about how you’re feeling and how you’re trying to cope. You can speak to family, friends or seek help through counselling. You might have access to counselling services through your employer, or you can use free services such as the Samaritans.
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. And allow yourself the occasional treat!
Practice meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness have been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are many videos and apps available to help you get started, but it doesn’t have to be formal - even taking a quiet walk can help you be mindful and check in with your body and mind.
Take up a hobby
Keeping your mind active with hobbies can help maintain mental wellbeing. You could try picking up a new hobby or reigniting an old one, whatever gives you something to look forward to each week.
Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. There are so many ways to help others, many of which don’t take much time or cost any money. You could try volunteering, checking in with a neighbour, calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or just offering to listen to someone who wants to talk.
Be kind to yourself
It’s normal for our moods to fluctuate when things in life change – we’ve all experienced a lot of change over the past few years. But it’s how we respond to these changes that can make a difference. Go easy on yourself and show yourself the same kindness and compassion as you would to others.
Plan a trip
Planning a trip over the winter months can help give you something to look forward to, whether it’s visiting a friend or going away somewhere with the family.
Seek out good news
There’s a lot of bad news out there, but there’s plenty of good news too. Unfortunately, news outlets tend to focus on the bad stories rather than the good ones. Try to seek out good news and control your exposure to daily news on television and online.
See family and friends
Socialising is good for our mental health. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept invitations to social events, even if you only go for a little while.
Get a good night’s sleep
Getting enough good quality sleep is vital to our mental health. Try going to bed and waking up on a consistent schedule. Avoid electronics in the bedroom or watching television right before bed.
Seek help if you need it
If your symptoms have lasted a long time or you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to reach out for help. Get in touch with your GP, call 111, or contact WeCare if you have access.
John Kendall | Senior Rehabilitation Consultant and Registered Nurse | Canada Life