Advice for Winter Wellness
Read our tips for boosting your happiness and wellbeing throughout the winter months.
The colder, darker days of winter can often leave us feeling burnt out with a lower mood than usual. Christmas, too, is a time of year that can bring added pressures, particularly around spending money, drinking, and taking drugs. These factors can sometimes make it difficult to cope, especially if it seems like everyone else is having fun enjoying the ideal Christmas (spoiler: they’re probably not, even if it looks that way from your perspective).
It’s vital to remember you are not alone. Many people experience low mood and other challenges during the winter months and our #WinterWellness advice is here to help us all boost our happiness over the festive period and into the New Year.
You can also use the useful phone numbers for help and support below if you need to. These services understand how difficult this time of year can be and are ready to offer support to those who need it.
We all know exercise is a great way to beat the blues and improve your health. It doesn’t have to be anything too rigorous, either. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes a day of walking, swimming, playing football with friends, gardening, or any other activity you find enjoyable that raises your heart rate and temperature. In turn, this will also help improve your quality and pattern of sleep.
Being cold can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, low mood, and depression, so staying warm can be an important way of improving your mental wellbeing. If possible, aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (64F and 70F degrees) and it’s time to wear your winter woollies and jumpers if you aren’t already. Have a favourite hot drink? There’s nothing like a cuppa tea or coffee to warm the cockles of your heart. You could even treat yourself to the occasional hot chocolate or cocoa – just go easy on the cream and marshmallows!
You can of course allow yourself the odd treat, but maintaining a healthy diet is always key to maintaining a healthy mind, providing you with more energy, and stopping your weight from fluctuating too much. Ensure you balance your cravings for carbohydrates – such as pasta and potatoes – with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Catch some rays
Many people take Vitamin D supplements and may use a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp during winter, but a daily walk in the middle of the day can also be beneficial for coping with the winter blues. Even on cloudy days, getting out before it goes dark can help substantially with your intake of Vitamin D and subsequently your overall happiness.
Try something new
Keeping your mind active with a new interest may be vital for beating the winter blues. It could be anything, such as playing games or video games, singing, or learning an instrument, knitting or crocheting, joining a gym, keeping a diary, or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on. If you enjoy gardening or keeping house plants, you can still maintain this hobby during the winter months.
Be careful about comparing yourself to others at Christmas
Unrealistic media and advertising versions of other people’s festive celebrations can make us feel less positive. Be realistic about your own expectations. Make plans for how you will spend the time over Christmas. Build time in for yourself to treat yourself, whether it be a new hobby or going out for a nice meal.
Participate in your local community or social groups
Christmas can be a time of increased loneliness and isolation. Many organisations offer support at Christmas and finding out what is available in your local area may be helpful. Local libraries, community centres social media and newspapers are good sources of information. Volunteering is one good way of reducing loneliness and having a sense of purpose if you would otherwise be spending Christmas alone. Try to connect into local groups and not spend too much time alone.
Connect with other people in similar situations
Don’t allow your normal routines to be pushed out of place. Try to go to your regular support groups such as SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training), NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) over the holiday period for support. You could even consider going to extra meetings if you feel it’s necessary. It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Try to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. Do try to avoid triggering social situations, such as ones where you may be tempted to drink or misuse drugs.
Plan to keep things problem free
Think about what people or situations may trigger negative feelings or behaviours and figure out ways to avoid them. If going to New Year’s party might be a trigger decide to just stop by on New Year’s Day and see the same people. Try to avoid people or places that may bring back memories of unhappy experiences or that might cause you to think about misusing substances. If you are unable to avoid these, think about making a plan ahead of time to cope with them as well as you possibly can. Your Key Worker at our services can help you with this.
Try to be thrifty
Over the festive period, it can often be tempting to splurge. Of course, it’s nice to buy worthwhile gifts for our friends and loved ones, but you don’t need to go overboard with expensive prezzies to show someone how much they meant to you. Why not try creating your own Christmas cards or spending some time learning to knit someone a woolly hat or scarf? Effort means so much more than expense.
Talk things through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms of low mood, anxiety, and depression. See your GP for information on what’s available locally. Sometimes even just picking up the phone to connect with a friend or family member can change your whole outlook on a day.
Make a realistic resolution
The New Year doesn’t have to mean a totally new you and many people place unrealistic expectations on themselves. As we move into 2022, it’s better to set yourself a realistic resolution, such as cutting down on unhealthy food and drink, rather than attempting to be something other than yourself. Try to reflect positively on some of the things you have achieved already in 2021 and plan to build on them next year.
USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS
- Humankind (open 8.45am to 4.45 pm Monday to Thursday and 8.45am to 4.15pm on Friday; closed weekends and public holidays): Find one of our services local to you online or call us on 1325 731 160
- Samaritans (open 24 hours every day): 08457 909090
- Sane mental health helpline (open between 4:30pm and 10:30pm every evening): 0300 3047000
- The Trussell Trust (open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, closed on public holidays – a network, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK): 01722 580171
- Papyrus HopelineUK (a confidential support and advice service for young people under the age of 35 who may be having thoughts of suicide): 0800 068 4141
- CALM (support to men in the UK, of any age, who are feeling down or in crisis): 0800 585858
- Money Advice Trust’s National Debtline (a debt advice charity run by the Money Advice Trust offering a free and confidential debt advice service): 0808 808 4000