In mid-winter whilst the temperatures drop and our bodies feel the cold, our mental health can also be affected. The season brings with it shorter days and colder weather, which means we spend more time indoors and at home. The lack of daylight is difficult for us all and we often find ourselves driving to work in the dark and often the same coming home. The winter blues are a common phenomenon, and we often feel tired and sluggish during the darker weather. Follow our tips to help protect your well-being, fostering a positive mindset to get you through the winter months.
Embrace sunlight and go outside:
The reduced daylight hours during winter can disrupt our circadian rhythm, impacting mood and sleep patterns. To help with this, go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Walking for an hour can help to lift your mood. Inside your home, sit near windows whenever you can. Open curtains and blinds during the day to maximise exposure to natural light, which helps regulate your body’s internal clock and promotes a sense of well-being.
The shorter days, colder weather and darker nights can put many of us off getting outside as much. But finding ways to exercise and get outside can help protect your mental wellbeing, as well as keeping you physically fitter. You may find just a little bit of movement can go a long way to helping you feel better. Physical activity is a powerful tool for maintaining mental health. Regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. While it may be tempting to hibernate indoors during winter, finding ways to stay active is crucial. Whether it’s joining a winter sports group, practicing yoga, or even dancing in your living room, keeping your body moving contributes to overall mental well-being. If you’re struggling to stay motivated, see if you can find an exercise buddy to take along with you or join an online class.
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and help to prevent weight gain over winter. Try balancing your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. These foods provide essential nutrients that support both physical and mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts have been linked to improved mood and cognitive function. Remember to make sure any seeds and nuts are ground, for those with an ileostomy, to prevent blockages. Limiting caffeine and sugar intake can also prevent energy crashes and mood swings.
Being cold can make you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Wear warm clothes, it is all about layering clothes to stay warm. Wearing bright coloured clothing can help to lift your mood too. Aim to keep your home between 18°C and 21°C (or 64°F and 70°F degrees). Consume plenty of hot drinks, soups and hot food.
Be connected to people:
Winter may tempt you to withdraw and hide away in the warmth of your home. However, maintaining social connections is vital for mental health. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. Sharing experiences and laughter with loved ones can provide a sense of connection and support during the darker months.
Embrace seasonal activities:
Make the most of winter by engaging in activities that bring you joy. Whether it’s building a snowman, ice skating, or enjoying a warm beverage by the fireplace, finding pleasure in seasonal activities can elevate your mood and create positive associations with winter.
Take the time to read a good book, have a long soak in a bath, or catch up with friends for a coffee. Do a jigsaw or play a game if you have children. Cook or do some baking, whatever it is that brings you joy.
Seek professional support:
If winter has a significant impact on your mental health, consider seeking professional help. Therapists and counsellors can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs, helping you navigate the challenges of the season. Join a support group such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Talking it through with someone can really help.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Winter can be tough, and it’s okay to acknowledge and accept the difficulties it brings. Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend facing similar challenges.