7 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WELLBEING
As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, it’s sometimes tempting to disappear under the duvet into hibernation. Most of us are chivvied along and kept busy by the festive cheer of Christmas and New Year celebrations. But come January, it’s common that many of us hit a slump. Although feeling less energised is common in the colder and darker months, you can still make sure to nurture yourself. We’ve put together 7 tips to improve your wellbeing this winter, and ensure you give yourself time to properly recharge.
HOW IS WELLBEING DEFINED?
Wellbeing is an umbrella term used to describe a state of feeling content. How we choose to interpret what constitutes our own wellbeing is personal to each of us, and also dependent on our social and cultural surroundings. There are multiple social, material, physical and emotional factors that contribute to wellbeing. Some examples of these factors include:
A nutritious diet
A network of positive and meaningful relationships
Getting enough sleep
Having a fulfilling career
Enjoying stimulating activities
Being physically fit
Having a comfortable and safe home
WHAT CAN NEGATIVELY AFFECT OUR WELLBEING DURING WINTER?
For some of us, our mental health can take a turn for the worse during the winter months. Shorter daylight hours, less time outside, and increased social isolation are all contributing factors. Most adults sleep an average of 2 hours more per night once the days get shorter. This is because less exposure to light influences our circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, our brain signals for us to sleep by releasing a hormone called melatonin. Overriding these signals and continuing with our busy lives and jobs can make some of us feel perpetually tired and groggy during the winter. Some people in fact suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression triggered by seasonal patterns.
Although this may not be the case for everyone, dedicating some more time to self-care during winter is no bad thing. You can support yourself by developing a winter wellness action plan, or try making a few small changes and see if you feel any positive differences.
Let’s take a look at our 7 winter wellbeing tips:
1. KEEP ON MOVING
Many of us will be working from home this winter and that may mean on some days we barely leave the house. Whether you are at home or the office, try planning your week ahead and schedule in space for movement. The NHS recommends adults should get just over 2 hours of moderate exercise per week in order to reap an array of health benefits. Exercise doesn’t just keep our bodies in shape, but boosts endorphins (happy hormones) and reduces our risks for developing a whole list of diseases. You don’t have to plan something every day, and we suggest keeping your exercise varied to keep it interesting. You could try winding down your evenings with a yoga class, or have a good old boogie in your living room. Take regular screen breaks if you are working on a computer, and use the stairs in your building rather than the lift to keep that step-o-meter happy!
2. KEEP HYDRATED
It’s sometimes too tempting to make another hot drink when it’s cold outside, but make sure you don’t neglect your water bottle this winter. Water makes up more than two thirds of our bodies and is vital for hydrating our organs and removing toxins. In colder weather, our sensation of thirst reduces and this can lead to us substituting with hot and sugary drinks. Those cinnamon mocha-choca gingerbread lattes surely are delicious, but they can have a frighteningly high sugar and caffeine content. Increasing our caffeine intake can disturb our sleep pattern and also leads to the jitters. High doses of sugar can actually reduce our energy levels. Reducing our water intake tips us into dehydration mode, and this can lead to tiredness, headaches and loss of concentration.
3. FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET
More time spent home alone offers the perfect opportunity for taking up a new hobby. Learning a new craft or skill can really boost self-confidence and bring about a sense of achievement. Nowadays there are so many communities online, so you can even connect with others who share your passions. Expressing yourself creatively can really bring you into your own this winter. You could give painting a go, try cooking new recipes, fermenting foods, or start an arts and crafts project. You never know you could really find your calling. For the business-heads out there, remember your wellbeing activities can even lead to the birthing of a new small-business!
4. KEEP CONNECTED
As great as down time can be we are social animals after all. It may seem too cold to be outside for long, and some of us may still want to avoid big crowds. But seeing or speaking to a friend or loved one can provide a real comforting boost this winter. Since the start of the pandemic some of us have adapted to spending a lot more time on our own. Cherishing this alone time is wonderful, and there really is something to be said for not jam-packing that diary. But scheduling appointments that we know will be nourishing and wholesome can lift our spirits and give us something to look forward to. If you don’t fancy face-to-face, phone calls or facetimes can be just as fun as the real thing. How about trying to organise a virtual Christmas quiz to keep things interesting, or start a virtual book club with friends from afar?
5. MAKE THE MOST OF NATURAL LIGHT
Sunlight is key for us to stay happy and healthy and is essential for Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb different minerals from our food, and a lack of Vitamin D can lead to weakened bones, teeth, and muscles. A Vitamin D deficiency can also bring about headaches and low mood and increase tiredness.
Sunshine can be hard to come by during the winter especially if you’re up when it’s still dark and then at the office all day. But there are small changes you can make to maximise your light exposure. Make sure you take care of your wellbeing at work and get outside at lunchtime, even if you haven’t forgotten your lunch! Experts say just 15 minutes of sunlight exposure per day is enough to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels, and the added exercise will also do you the world of good.
6. CUT BACK ON THE BOOZE
The allure of Christmas parties can certainly be a highlight of the winter for some of us. The festive season may not feel like the right time at all to go tee-total, but there’s also no need for you to stop drinking entirely. Try simply taking a more mindful approach to your alcohol intake and see what a difference it can make.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your thinking and reactions and essentially impairs your cognitive function. It dehydrates your body and skin, leaving you feeling and looking washed-out the next day. Alcohol affects serotonin levels (also a happy hormone) in your brain, and so worsens feelings of anxiety and depression. Drinking also impacts the quality and quantity of your sleep, meaning you’re more likely to feel foggy and drained.
We know that cutting out drinking altogether is a really big challenge. Why not try swapping some of your mid-week drinks for non-alcoholic substitutes, or aim to have some alcohol-free days. You will be amazed at how great you’ll start to look and feel, and also how much money you’ll save.
7. START JOURNALLING
Keeping a wellness journal where you can start to freely express your fears, thoughts and reflections can be a truly liberating experience. Journaling can help you work through mental blocks and difficult situations, assisting with joining the dots between past and present. Journaling is a super personal and creative experience, and can be whatever you want it to be! Some people like to write gratitude lists, reminding themselves daily to stay grounded and thankful. For some, it’s a way to keep track of their goals and dreams and ensure they are aiming for success. A couple of words a day can really help to unlock patterns and help us to recognise our own needs. From purchasing a beautifully-bound paper diary to going digital with wellbeing apps, there is a journaling process out there to suit everyone this winter.
Disclaimer: If you feel you are experiencing any of the symptoms of SAD or you feel you are struggling with your mental health then please speak to a health professional and seek support.
If you would like support with cutting down or stopping drinking please speak to a health professional. You can also contact your local Alcoholics Anonymous support group.