Winter Wellbeing

Winter Wellbeing

The winter months can be a wonderful time to hibernate, stay indoors where it’s warm and cosy.

But these darker, colder shorter days can also make it difficult to look after our mental health, physical health and emotional health.

Why? It could be due to one or more of the following

  • less socialising
  • low mood, depression
  • lack of sunlight and fresh air
  • less exercise
  • cravings carbohydrates
  • reduced energy
  • and more

 

While you can’t control the weather, there are things you CAN control, which can make a huge difference to your mood, your health and your happiness

✔️ Move! Be active every day – find an activity that appeals to you and do it often. Walk, cycle, run, swim, dance, gym, yoga. Harvard research has shown that regular exercise (30 minutes a day , 5 days a week) can significantly improve your mood. Struggling to find the time?  “Snack” on exercise, and enjoy it in 5 or 10 minute doses … a brisk lunchtime walk around the block, perhaps? Better still, exercise with good music or a friend to make it more fun !

✔️ Eat well: Make sure you eat a good range of vegetables, fruit and other unprocessed foods which are full of vitamins and minerals. These are essential for supporting our immune system and helping us fight the winter bugs, and the nutrients are essential for good brain health and functioning.   Enjoy a rainbow of colours on your plate and mix it up a bit – try eating plant based foods with different colours – red, orange, purple, green, yellow, and more.

✔️ Catch up with your friends. Meet for a coffee or a walk – enjoy good conversation and a laugh!  Social connections are so important for our mental health. We are social creatures and hardwired to connect. Social isolation can be as bad for your health as smoking, so stay connected to the people who lift you up and boost your mood.

✔️ Prioritise good quality sleep. Use relaxation exercises, a warm shower or a bath, herbal teas and light reading to wind yourself down ready for a deep sleep. Ideally avoid technology and screens for at least an hour before bed, and turn the lights out at a reasonable hour.

✔️ Listen to your favourite music. Playing your favourite tunes is a well-known psychological strategy used to boost mood. Compile a playlist of your favourite songs so you have them ready to go, and play them while in the car, out walking, or perhaps even while cooking dinner.  (Bonus points if you sing or dance along with the music!)

✔️ Make time for fun every day.    What is one thing you can do today that is fun or brings you joy? Play a game, find a playground, spend time with your favourite people….find something that brings YOU joy

✔️ Take mini breaks:   Be aware of when you are spending long periods at your computer or working on a task that requires focus and concentration. Taking short breaks between mentally challenging tasks reduces mental fatigue and can actually help us be more productive.  Your are not a robot or a machine – take time to “recharge your batteries”

✔️ Get outside: Direct sunlight (even if the sun is behind the clouds) helps our brain to release seratonin which can boost your mood and help you feel calm and relaxed. Sunlight also regulates your circadian rhythm (your body clock) to help you sleep better. And a dose of fresh air can be invigorating and “blow out the cobwebs”

✔️ Be Kind: when we are kind to others, dopamine (our reward hormone) is released, and it has a two-hour positive impact on our body as well as helping us feel connected to others.

✔️ Take time out from your devices: the more time you are on a device on looking at a screen, the less time you are spending doing the things above and investing in your wellbeing. How can you find a healthy balance?

 

Winter can be a tough time and it can feel like a long haul, but there are plenty of evidence-based tools and strategies that can help support our resilience and give us a “buffer” through the season.

Don’t forget to take time to appreciate and be grateful for the joys of winter: crisp mornings, warm cups of tea or coffee, a cosy Sunday curled up with a book…. what parts of winter are YOU grateful for?

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Carley Nicholson
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