By Chris Skoyles, hypnotherapist at CJS Therapy
In the UK, one in three people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression relating to the change in seasons that tends to hit hardest as winter draws in.
In my own therapy practice, I certainly see more clients for low mood and related issues from November to January.
The good news is that a few small things can make a huge difference in terms of improving our mood and maintaining positive mental wellbeing.
Here, I’ll share with you ten simple yet effective mental health tips for winter that may help you to enjoy a few more brighter days over the coming months.
1. Head outdoors
Yes, it’s freezing cold outside. Yes, it’s much cosier to stay curled up in front of Netflix with the heating on, but honestly, one of the best mental health tips for winter is getting outdoors. It’s one of the best things any of us can do for our mental health.
Taking in the fresh air increases your oxygen levels which, in turn, leads to an increase in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that improves mood and helps you to feel calmer.
Of course, it’s hardly the weather for sunbathing right now, so while you’re out, you’ll certainly benefit from moving around.
Not only will it keep you warm, but it will also combine with the benefits of being outdoors to help you even more as countless studies show that even a moderate amount of physical activity can work wonders on improving our mood.
It doesn’t have to be much.
Even if you simply wrap up warm and take advantage of what day light there is to go for a quick stroll around Mesnes Park once a day it will make a big difference.
2. Create Your Self-Care Kit
What is a self-care kit? Whatever you want it to be!
In essence, it’s a collection of any items that may bring you some comfort or happiness on those days when the winter blues are really coming on strong.
My own self-care kit is simply a small cardboard box filled with things like bathroom products (nothing makes me feel better on a tough day than a long, hot shower!), an old iPod full of my favourite songs, and a few other items that I can reach for to help make those hard days a little easier to deal with.
You could include anything you like in yours; a picture of your favourite place or someone you love, your favorite pamper products, or perhaps even some tasty hot chocolate sachets.
The benefits of doing this are two-fold:
Not only do you have a ready-made mental wellbeing first aid kit to hand should you ever need it, but the very process of putting your kit together gets you focusing on the things you love and enjoy and that in itself can make a tremendous difference to your mood. Why not take a look in our Local Directory to find local businesses who specialise in self-care products which would take pride of place in any kit!
3. Invest in a Light Box
If getting outdoors to enjoy some natural daylight just isn’t an option for you right now, you may want to think about getting a light box.
This is essentially a special lamp with a really strong light that is said to reduce our production of melatonin (making us less sleepy and lethargic) and increase that all-important serotonin.
Though they’re not necessarily a magical cure for everybody, some people do insist that sitting by a light box for as little as 30 minutes per day helps them tremendously. You can find Light boxes like this one on Amazon.
4. Have a Laugh
The old adage that laughter is the best medicine certainly has some truth in it.
A good laugh can be a powerful stress-reliever. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our bodies that improve our sense of well-being.
Did I also mention that laughter can boost the immune system too?
So no, taking an evening to binge your favorite sitcom or comedy film on Netflix isn’t being lazy. If you’re struggling with your mental well-being this winter, you’ll actually be doing yourself a whole world of good!
5. Stay Connected
Yes, laughter is good for you, but before you shut yourself off from the world to binge-watch all 236 episodes of Friends, let me say that even a little human interaction will go a long way in helping you maintain positive mental well-being in the winter months.
I know that reaching out can seem like an incredibly hard thing to do when your mood is really low, but if you can connect with a friend or family member -even for just a short period- it will absolutely help.
6. Up Your Fruit and Veg Intake
Eating a healthy diet isn’t just good for our body, it also makes a tremendous difference to the way we feel too.
Consuming more fruits, veggies, beans, pulses, and wholegrains and less sugar, carbs, and caffeine will benefit you both physically as well as mentally.
That’s not to say you have to radically alter your diet overnight, simply that making a few small changes will make a very big difference.
7. One Final Tip
Introduced into your life gradually, all six of the mental health tips for winter above will help you improve your mental wellbeing this winter, but if you’re really struggling worse than usual right now, please know you’re not alone and help is available.
The Samaritans helpline (116 123) and online web chat service always has somebody available to talk.
Wishing you a safe and healthy winter.
About the Author
Chris Skoyles is a professionally qualified clinical hypnotherapist and solution-focused therapist. He runs CJS Therapy in Newton-le-Willows, offering hypnotherapy, online counselling, walk and talk therapy and stop smoking support.
Chris is also the author of a book which can help you quit smoking this year – for good. You’ll find Quit Smoking and Be Happy: Finding Freedom, Health, and Joy Without Cigarettes on Amazon – it’s available as a Kindle download too.