Wellbeing in winter.
ith winter approaching and the days become shorter, we often feel the need to hibernate. Add to this, the rising R rate, and uncertainty of Covid-19 there is a sense that this winter may feel different to other years. Self- care during the winter months is important to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Many of us feel more tired during the winter months, so here are some tips to help you beat the winter blues, lift your mood and boost energy levels.
- Getting outside – Get some natural daylight every day. Pushing yourself to layer up and go for an early morning walk or run each day during daylight hours can help boost your mood.
- Eat healthily – We often crave ‘comfort food’ in winter, it’s good for the soul! Keeping to a balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit and pulses as well as that sticky toffee pudding will help improve our energy levels and lift our mood.
- Boost your vitamin D intake – In the UK, we don’t have enough sunlight during the winter months to be able to make sufficient vitamin D. We need this to maintain healthy bones and muscles. We can increase our intake by including foods high in vitamin D such as oily fish, egg yolks and mushrooms. NHS guidelines recommend we also consider taking vitamin D supplements over the winter months as it is difficult for us get enough vitamin D from food alone.
- Get active – Exercise is good for body and mind, encouraging the release of endorphins (the body’s feel good chemicals) to lift your mood, reducing stress and anxiety. So, whether it’s a brisk walk, workout or yoga, keeping active can help improve self-esteem.
- Wake up to sunshine! – Invest in a sunrise alarm clock which gradually lights up your bedroom allowing you to wake up naturally. There is evidence to show that natural morning light can actually help prepare our body to wake up by increasing cortisol levels which make us feel less drowsy and brighter about the day ahead.
- Light therapy lamps – These lamps provide a light that simulates the sunlight we miss during the darker winter months. It’s thought that the light encourages our brains to produce serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood. The light also reduces the production of melatonin which makes us feel sleepy and tired. Some people find these lamps help improve their mood and increase energy levels. However, these lights may not be suitable for everyone and it is best to talk to your doctor before trying one.
- Keep connected – Spending more time inside during the winter months can leave us feeling lonely and isolated. In addition, Covid-19 restrictions have made it even more difficult to socialise and move about freely. As we become more familiar with virtual communication being able to connect with family, friends and colleagues, virtually or in person is important for our sense of wellbeing.
- Get creative – The winter months provide the ideal time to start a new hobby, baking, painting, writing, making time to be creative helps self-expression and can give a sense of accomplishment.
- Be kind to yourself – Allow yourself time to relax. Catch up on Netflix, a book or your favourite magazine with a hot chocolate; take a relaxing bath. Making time to relax can create comfort during the colder months.
- Rediscover the beauty of winter – Combat negative thoughts about the dreary grey skies and rain by looking at winter through new eyes. When you think about it, winter can be beautiful with crisp frosty mornings and blue skies. Being mindful of this can help lift the spirits. Notice winter with an artistic eye, capturing the changing weather with photos, this can help shift your thoughts and feelings.
For some people, the changing seasons and weather can result in low moods that last for a long time and affect their everyday life. If you experience these symptoms and they keep coming back at the same time of year you may be one of the two million people in the UK who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You do not have to suffer this alone, discuss with your doctor the treatment options available, these include talking therapies which can be effective in helping with low moods and depression.