September 6, 2021
8 WAYS TO LIFT YOUR MOOD WHEN YOU HAVE THE WINTER BLUES
When your mental well-being feels like its declining faster than the mercury reading, it might be time to put some lifestyle changes in place to lift your mood and kick those winter blues.
We all get caught by the winter blues at one point or another – we’d often rather make like the bear and hibernate for 6 months than go outside – but instead of waiting for it to pass let’s look at ways we can enjoy the winter months!
As our hours of sunlight drop so do our vitamin D levels, so it’s no surprise we all start catching those dreaded colds and feeling a bit under the weather. The days are getting shorter – the nights much longer – and there’s a chill in the air that means only one thing, it’s time to put our well-practised layering techniques into action. (We’d recommend pulling on the BEAR Warmer…)
It’s probably fair to say that when it comes to keeping warm we know what we’re doing, but when it comes to maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude throughout a long British winter things can be a bit more complicated.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very real and affects 1 in 3 people. But, luckily, it’s something that we can actually control, to a certain extent, and our beloved nature plays a big role in helping us do so!
A recent study found that just 20 minutes out in nature can help to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels significantly. So, whilst we may not feel like going out in the cold, it might be the one thing that keeps us happy this winter!
WAYS TO KICK YOUR WINTER BLUES
Eat well and keep healthy
There are certain foods that can help you deal with the winter blues. Chocolate, for example, can be a powerful mood enhancer whereas sweets and carbohydrates may provide a temporary fix but could ultimately increase feelings of depression. We all know how much better we feel when we’re eating well and feeling healthy, try not to let the carbohydrates and sugar take over as the temperature drops.
Eating seasonally is also a great way to stay healthy and shopping at local farms or farmer’s markets helps you spend a little more time outside.
Make your environment brighter
Your body will be craving more daylight and if you’re going from home, to the office, and home again you may not see any at all! Sitting next to a mood light for 30 minutes a day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. You could also try working closer to a window or spending more time outside during the day by switching up your working hours – probably easier to implement if you work for yourself.
Exercise releases endorphins which improve our mood. A study from Harvard suggests that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week, or 60 minutes a day three times a week can improve symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
Even better, exercise outside. Combining exercising with your time in nature means less time spent being cold, now that’s a good enough reason in itself isn’t it?
Tina Vindum, a faculty member of the American Council on Exercise and the author of Tina Vindum's Outdoor Fitness: Step Out of the Gym Into the Best Shape of Your Life, says "When you exercise outdoors, your mind is aware of the changing terrain. Whether you use the hills, the sand on a beach, or a winding path, your mind has to focus differently than it would on a flat gym floor".
Several studies, including one published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2011, also suggests that exercise outdoors benefits mental well-being more than the same type of exercise inside.
It’s been scientifically proven that listening to upbeat and cheery music can lead to significantly improved moods in both the short and long term! So, no more listening to that slow Sunday morning music as the rain taps on the window. Start the day with a run whilst listening to your favourite feel-good tracks.
It’s no secret that helping others makes us feel good, plus it can get us out in the fresh air and the light. Help out at a local homeless shelter or volunteer through organisations like GoodGym – exercise and doing good all in one go.
Embrace the positive things about winter
It might be dark and miserable out there sometimes, but things just wouldn’t be the same if it was summer all year round, would they? Think about all the things you love about winter and try and embrace them more regularly. Hot chocolate, log fires, red wine, wild beach walks, homemade stews, cosy jumpers, Christmas films, snow days, ice skating, the list goes on – which are your favourites?
Catch up with friends
Spending time with friends and family is vital for good health but is something that’s often underestimated. Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s podcast episode where he speaks to Dhru Purohit is really insightful and touches on some great points about the importance of spending time with close friends. The pair also talk about why making friendships is harder as an adult and why this is a particular problem for men – a fifth of whom say they don’t have any close friends.
Spend time outdoors
This might be our favourite one because, like our bear friends, we love spending time in the wild. But we know it’s not always that appealing when the temperature drops, and the horizontal rain makes an unwanted appearance. Still, as Wainwright says, “There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
Just recently, a study found that 95 per cent of people who took part, who started out with low mental well-being, improved in six weeks after working in nature for five to six hours each week.
Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
Last but not least, remember to talk about how you’re feeling. It’s highly likely that others around you are suffering from symptoms of SAD too – embark on a road to wintery positivity together!
When it comes to embracing the outdoors, even when winter throws its worst at us, we look to some particular people for inspiration. Try following them too, you never know, you might be a seasoned cold-water swimmer by next year!