Here are some tips to help you keep mentally well throughout the winter season. Doing small actions every day can have a big impact!
Have a support system and stay connected
Studies have shown that having a strong support system and maintaining social interaction is vital to maintain positive mental health. Although Covid-19 changed the way people connect and interact with friends and family, the winter months provide a unique set of challenges in themselves. So, it’s really important to stay connected to people regularly. Connecting with people not only creates a sense of belonging and inclusion, it provides you with perspectives, ideas and solutions that you may not come up with on your own, should you need them. Being around people can also help to give you energy and take your focus off problems. Schedule regular chats and meet-ups with friends and family and look for clubs, interest groups, support groups, or other communities to join. You can do this in-person or online and there are lots to choose from! Keep in mind that there are plenty of people who need new friends and will want to connect with you, but you must be open to connecting with them too.
Mood and sunlight
Vitamin D is produced by our bodies in the presence of sunlight and plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin., which is a chemical associated with boosting mood and helps you feel calmer and happier. By contrast, when night-time rolls in, darkness triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin, which helps you fall asleep but can make you lethargic during the day. So, in winter it’s important to make sure you get enough sun exposure, to prevent your serotonin levels taking a nosedive. The best time is around noon as it has been shown that this is the most beneficial light for elevating mood in winter.
Be in Nature
Many studies have shown that spending time in nature is linked to improved cognitive function and emotional wellbeing. The feeling of connectedness you get in nature bring the type of contentment that goes beyond just feeling good and includes having meaningful purpose in life (Alison Pritchard, et al.). Not only that, green spaces and blue spaces (marine and freshwater environments) have been shown to produce wellbeing benefits (Ascon, M., et al.), and more remote and biodiverse spaces may be particularly helpful, though even urban parks and trees can lead to positive outcomes. Surprisingly, people who watch nature videos with a diverse mix of flora and fauna report lower anxiety, more vitality and better mood than those who watched videos feature less biodiverse landscapes (Wolf, L.J., et al, 2017), so connect to nature in every way you can!
You could also consider doing some breathing or mindfulness exercises (you can find some in the members Self Discovery Library) outdoors for added benefit.
During the winter months it can feel harder to get out of the house and be motivated, so intentionally taking part in activities that you enjoy reduces negative thinking and promotes positive thinking. Try scheduling the activities and you’ll be more likely to follow through with them and, as a result, benefit from the positive feelings that come from doing the enjoyable activity. A good way to do this is to join a class or make a pact with a friend that you will go for a walk together at a certain time every week, for example. This will provide accountability, which will motivate you to go.
When you’re outside, make sure to stay warm. Staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. So, although you do need to get outside daily for sunshine, keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees), if possible.
When the weather gets colder, it’s natural to turn to comfort foods. The downside of this is that these are often loaded with fats and sugar, which can cause weight gain over time and a blood sugar yo-yo effect. Make sure to eat foods rich in antioxidants and high in vitamins. Eating healthily will give you the mood and energy boost you need to power through winter, as well as boosting your immunity to protect from colds etc. In addition to vitamin D. as outlined above, there are particular vitamins and minerals you need to pay attention to during winter that you get from the foods you eat. These include vitamin C, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E.
Make a point of looking forward to things that you enjoy or are excited about. Think of people you would like to see, a restaurant or café you want to go to, a trip you’d like to take, a movie you’d like to see, or other things you’ll enjoy. If possible, schedule these things too, so that you have a date to look forward to.
Life is for living and you can live it well by doing small actions every day in the right direction. As the saying goes, extraordinary results come from doing lots of ordinary things well!
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