As we approach the official beginning of the cold season of the year, it is so important to protect your mental health in winter. Already we have seen the days getting shorter and darker whilst temperatures have plummeted. These are all conditions that encourage us to withdraw from ourselves and others, a recipe for feeling low and disconnected.
By Amy Lawrence is a freelance writer interested in animal welfare, mental health, books and music. She shares her learnings from over the years on how to prioritise winter wellbeing and maintain a stable mindset.
This piece of advice is admittedly harder than it sounds. The 9 to 5 around this time of year promotes arriving to work in bleak conditions and leaving in darkness. Even when working remotely it’s sometimes difficult to summon the motivation to get some fresh air.
However, making time to connect with nature, no matter how small, is so beneficial to winter wellbeing. Find a moment that works for you. Whether it’s a quick walk or jog before work in the morning or a stroll on your lunch break. Finding those pockets of time to engage in different fresh surroundings will do wonders for your mental health and motivation.
When I’ve had bad mental health days it’s been hugely beneficial for me to have someone to go outside with. Whenever I’ve felt bound to my flat, having my partner to pull me outside after work has been so helpful. If possible, arrange to meet with loved ones for a lunch date or evening walk. The company and fresh surroundings will provide a much-needed boost.
Reconnect with hobbies and joy
Downtime in the evening or weekend is so important at any time of year but especially in winter. Pressures and commitments can increase in the run up to Christmas so it’s especially significant to give back to yourself. Each of these activities should have joy at its very centre as opposed to the idea of self-improvement.
Personally, I’ve discovered moments of joy from the seemingly little things. I’ve reconnected with my passion for music by playing a vinyl in the morning whilst eating breakfast. I’ve played my guitar purely for the fun of it without pressurising myself to learn theory or improve my technique. I’ve read new books, discovered new TV shows and rewatched those that bring me comfort and laughter when feeling low.
These practices are so integral to winter wellbeing and can provide a safeguard against those cold and dark days.
Exercise to boost winter wellbeing
As someone who despised P.E at school, I was convinced that exercise was the enemy. My hatred has now definitely subsided as I’ve realised that how you move your body is incredibly personal. And, as it turns out, being active is very good for your mental health.
Exercise is such a broad concept and doesn’t have to be confined to the gym. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the park or cycling along a favourite path. A big game changer for me was discovering HIIT dance workouts on YouTube, particularly the channel emkfit. She prioritises exercise for fun with her dance workouts ranging from classic rock to Broadway musicals. Completing her workouts has not only increased my love for exercise, but also hugely benefited my mental health.
Choose what works for you and your body. You’ll be guaranteed to receive a serotonin boost to your overall winter wellbeing.
Talk to loved ones when you are affected by changes in your mental health in winter
Winter can be an isolating period of time, especially as it’s so easy to hibernate and remain solitary indoors. Days alone are of course needed, but your winter wellbeing will benefit from connecting with loved ones.
Getting together in person is of course the absolute best, but even a phone call or a message can help. As none of my family or friends live locally, I make sure to stay in touch through calls or Messenger.
Online communities on social media are also a brilliant way to connect to people when feeling isolated. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and give back to your local community.
If you feel comfortable enough, opening up about your mental health to those you trust can be so validating. I often find it encourages a two-way conversation where both parties benefit and feel much more lifted. Although if this isn’t possible, online therapy or a local counsellor is always an option.
Find your inner peace to enhance mental health in winter
Back in 2020 when my mental health was very unstable, I found that journaling and guided meditation soothed me. Even though I love to write, I was suspicious of journaling and releasing all my inner thoughts onto the page. It can be quite intimidating to connect with yourself that deeply but I’m glad I took the plunge. Journaling is such a cathartic act and can be practiced as little or as much as you need without pressure.
If journaling is not right for you, find something else that brings you peace and calm. Whether that’s yoga or listening to a podcast, slowing down and rejecting hustle culture is integral to our mental health.
We are all different and our mental health is no exception. Personalise your routine and do whatever you are comfortable with to find out what helps you feel happy and stable. Trust your state of mind and body and you’ll be guaranteed to nurture your winter wellbeing and overall mental health.
Have you discovered our Women’s Wisdom columns with great articles on how to look after yourself yet?