10 tips to beat the blues this winter
1) Get outdoors
As the old song says, the weather outside might be frightful, but breaking out of the sedentary winter mind-set can do wonders for your mental health. Embrace the daylight hours and head outside for a brisk walk or cycle. It will perform wellness wonders, lifting your spirits for the rest of the day.
2) Supplement the Sunshine
Here in the UK, from spring to September, we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure. But as winter comes around and the sun starts to set at 4pm we can find ourselves depleted of this vital nutrient, leading to fatigue and brain fog. To combat these effects, consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement or adding vitamin rich foods like mushrooms, spinach and oily fish to your diet.
3) Stay social
Those suffering with SAD often report feelings of loneliness and a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. During dark winter months it becomes all the more tempting to become a recluse but it is important to stay social. Make plans with friends and relatives – don’t let those event invites pile up.
4) Get your dose of happy
Prioritise a pleasure boosting activity for at least one hour a day to get those endorphins flowing. If you’re a member of a gym, you can take advantage of indoor activities that aren’t dependent on sunlight hours. Choose a relaxing swim or a meditation class to boost your mood.
5) Make your environment brighter
With fewer daylight hours and the probability of adverse weather to contend with, we naturally spend more time at home during winter. So if you’re feeling low, bring the sun indoors. Easy additions to your house like cushions and colourful pictures can brighten up a space and leave you feeling more positive. Even if rooms in your home don’t get the best light, small tricks like adding mirrors and using lighter interior decor colours can make a world of difference.
6) Happy meals
Eat your way to health and happiness and choose warming winter recipes full of goodness. Head here for a host of delicious winter warmers including winter soups, stews and drinks.
7) Create a cosy space
Last year ‘hygge’, the Danish obsession with getting cosy, made a lasting impression on us. If you haven’t already, take note from our Scandinavian counterparts and stock up on candles and cuddly blankets for the winter. According to author of The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking, ‘hygge’ can be defined as ‘togetherness, relaxations, indulgence, presence and comfort’. In simple terms, it means enjoying the moment. Intertwine these values into your everyday routine and you’ll help to keep the blues at bay this winter.
8) Plan a holiday
If you struggle during winter months, prioritise your annual leave for the latter half of the year. The Mental Health Foundation says: “Taking more time off work for self-care during the winter months makes sense, as it’s when you need it more.” What’s more, the act of planning a trip can lift your mood. Why not download creative app Pinterest to explore, save and plan your dream trip?
9) Let there be light
If you are worried about how winter is affecting your health, you may find that light therapy can improve your symptoms. This involves sitting near a special lamp called a ‘light box’, typically for 30 minutes to an hour each morning. Light boxes can range from wall-mounted fixtures to desk lamps and simulate the sunlight we miss during winter. The therapy is thought to improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of happy hormones, such as serotonin.
Dawn-simulating alarm clocks are another worthwhile investment. The clock gradually lights up your bedroom as you wake up, making it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Genuis.
10) Finally…seek support
If you’ve taken active steps to try and improve your mood during winter, but you’re still feeling low, don’t be afraid to seek medical help. Your local GP can provide a recommendation on the most suitable treatment option for you, based on the nature and severity of your symptoms. There are a range of options available, from cognitive behavioural therapies to counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy. Learn more about the treatments available to you here.
Martin Ricketts is CEO of Plutus Health