For Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferers, the winter months are a full-on trial, that often take professional help to get through.
But let’s be honest, most of us struggle with a touch of the winter blues to some degree or another.
Eating healthily, seeing friends, getting outside and doing exercise are all trotted out year by year, so let’s assume you’re already doing those.
Here are some extra tips for feeling on top of things all winter long.
Exercise is even more essential for your mental health in winter, and learning a new active skill is a great way to get fit without it feeling like a struggle.
Boxing is ideal for releasing pent-up aggression, getting a full-body workout and using your brain to coordinate your movements. It also incorporates core strength, balance and dance-like fancy footwork. Quite apart from the fact that it’s practical self-defence training. Book a beginner’s course to help get you started and make newbie boxing friends.
Curate your social media
Sorry world, you’re pretty miserable right now.
We’re not suggesting you should check out entirely (well hey, maybe for a couple of months…) but if you’re feeling the strain of the modern news cycle, it’s time to cut down.
Spend some time curating your news feeds on social media. Hide groups that post negative news and consider unfollowing some news agencies to trim down what you read. Do the same with ‘friends’. If there are people who tend towards negative, hide them from your feeds (you can do so without unfriending them).
If it’s important to stay on top of things for your job, give yourself set times to read news websites to keep up. That way you are at least in control of what you’re fed.
It may seem like a hassle, but we use social media on autopilot, so it’s easy to forget how much negative information is being pumped straight into our brains.
It’s impossible to have escaped from this Scandi trend (pronounced hoo-gar, to rhyme with nougat).
It’s a state of mind where you remove all annoyances and concentrate on cosying up, being around people you love, eating tasty, wholesome food and just taking life easy.
The main takeaway here is forget about your social calendar, stop ramming your life full of busyness and give yourself a break. This is something to really enjoy in the coming coldest months of January and Feb, when you’re broke and Christmas is a social wreck in your rearview mirror.
That doesn’t mean forgetting your friends entirely though. Get them round to enjoy a film and a takeaway in your cosy, candle-lit flat once in a while.
Eating healthily is vital for mental and physical wellbeing all year round. But in winter, eating smarter can make you feel better. Refined carbs and sugar will give you a temporary high, but for long-term mood balancing, choose lots of fruit and veg, and complex carbs such as brown rice and pasta, pulses, lean meat and fish.
This should give you all the vitamins you need, apart from vitamin D, which we make from the sun, so you might want to consider taking this as a supplement.
If you’re vegetarian, make sure you’re getting all the B vitamins you need from plant and dairy-based foods. (And vegans, you’ll need to do extra homework to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you require!)
If you know you’re a SAD sufferer or even on the borderline, you might find you respond well to light-based mood treatment that works physiologically to improve your mental health. You can buy special SAD lamps for use at home or on your desk at work. Check out SADA’s recommendations here.
Prep, prep, prep
It can be hard to see the wood for the trees in the winter. So put aside one day of the weekend or a couple of evenings to do some planning that’ll last through the dark months.
Make playlists full of happy, inspirational and energetic music you love. Then when you need a pick me up, you can stick one on without having to think about what band to choose. Upbeat music has been proven to significantly boost our mood.
Organise some activities to do with friends. For example, look up your local pub quiz, see which bands are playing in your town, or films that are coming out in the next few months, book tickets, and put markets and events in the diary.
And if you really need something big to look forward to – book a holiday.
Make an urban garden
Plants are wonderful mood-boosters, and having something to look after – even just a cactus – can give you a real sense of purpose.
So invest in a small urban garden – really just a collection of winter-surviving, indoor plants. Research the best plants for your situation (do they like shade or direct light? Do they need lots of watering or hardly any?). It’ll brighten up your living area, and come the spring you’ll be ready to graduate onto more exciting options, such as tomato plants!
All of these ideas can help if you put them into practise, but for some, winter is really difficult time. Find out more about SAD, and if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to visit your GP for help. Support groups and more practical help is available.