10 tips for looking after your mental wellbeing in the winter months
1. Let there be light – and cosiness! Going out in the cold might seem unappealing, but getting some natural light can be invigorating and really help your mood. So try to get outside, especially at midday and on brighter days. When you’re indoors, sit near windows whenever you can to make the most of natural light. You could also make friends with cold, dark days. Having a positive mindset about winter can help you experience it differently. See it as a time to do more things like reading, relaxing, keeping warm and cosy – a time to recharge your batteries before spring arrives.
2. Healthy comforts We all crave comfort, particularly over winter, and it can be tempting to reach for things that feel good in the moment, like a hot, sticky pudding or processed food high in fat, sugar and salt and alcohol or other substances. However, these may not help in the long term, so find other options that are just as pleasurable but without the downsides, like reading, doing puzzles, baking something healthier or taking a walk with a friend.
3. Plan something pleasurable – and also have some ‘me time’ Make a point of looking forward to things that you enjoy or are excited about or arranging something to look forward to.
Think of people you want to see, a film you want to watch, a weekend with friends or something else you’ll enjoy. If possible, make a plan and put the date in your diary so you’ve got something to look forward to.
Don’t completely fill up your diary though so there’s no time for you! Try and schedule some ‘me-time’: whether it’s booking leave from work, shutting the bathroom door for a bath away from the kids or getting out for a run alone – find something that works for you and make it happen.
4. Boost your energy and your mood When the days are darker and you can’t socialise outdoors in the sunshine, try replacing this with another energy-boosting activity. It could be taking up an exercise class, a hobby that you might enjoy, or running for us in March's TTP Cambridge Half Marathon!
Keeping physically active can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing energy levels. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly strenuous – listen to your body and pick a form of movement that works for you – whether that’s doing the housework, a brisk walk around the park or even a few slow stretches while sitting down to get your blood flowing.
5. Celebrate the good stuff Try to notice the good things in your life when you’re feeling down, however small. It could be the sunshine in the morning, the appearance of the first green leaf, a warm cup of tea or a great book you’re enjoying. On days when this feels hard to do, just pick one thing you’re grateful for. You could write your thoughts down each day in a journal so that you can look back on it when you’re feeling low.
6. Get your money sorted Plan your finances this winter – including making sure you’re getting any benefits you’re entitled to and getting help with any debt concerns you may have.
7. Keep connected Don’t let gloomy days drain you of your motivation to go out and see friends and family. We’re social creatures and spending time with friends and loved ones can really help to boost your mood. If you feel you’re lacking positive relationships, try volunteering or joining a class or group to meet new people.
Stay connected – keep in touch with friends, family and work colleagues in whatever way works for you – a phone call, video-chat, letter or text message. If you’re invited to a social event, see if you can try to make the effort to go, even if only for a little bit.
8. Take a break from gadgets We’ve all relied on technology more than ever over the last couple of years but it’s important to give yourself some time away from your screens and gadgets too, especially when it comes to social media. While social media can help provide a sense of community and connection, studies have suggested a link between heavy use and increased risk of depression, anxiety and loneliness, especially among young people.
9. Eat well
A healthy diet will boost your mood and give you more energy. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you struggle to eat, that’s okay and you’re not alone. See if you can create a simple routine and ask for help if you need it.
10. Stay interested Keeping your mind active with a new interest can ward off the winter blues. It could be anything – singing, joining a gym or getting creative and painting or playing an instrument – the important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on. And finally, a bonus tip... Look forward to spring!
Know that spring will return – as it does without fail every year – with the promise of warmer, longer, sunnier days. So hang on in there: it’s only just around the corner!
Winter wellbeing daily checklist
Doing some of these activities each day can really help your wellbeing in the winter months. Why not try doing at least three every day and ticking them off as you go? Get some exercise – even if it’s just walking up and downstairs three times in a row! Get some natural light – either by going outdoors or sitting near a window
Write down one thing you’re grateful for Plan something to look forward to Take a break from your devices Eat some green veg Say hello to a friend, family member or someone in your local community
If you feel you are struggling in any way this winter, please remember you can contact the wellbeing team anytime to help support you during this time. Best wishes, The Wellbeing Team
(Article sourced from The Charlie Waller Trust)