Let’s face it; winter is a tough time for the human race. We can’t snuggle down and hibernate until spring arrives like other animals (and we also don’t have a head-to-toe fur coat!). As the days become shorter and colder, it can be difficult to keep going with the activities we were doing in the warmer seasons, such as socialising and exercising. We begin to care more about staying warm (which often means staying at home), and feel less inclined to get things done after dark – which isn’t ideal when it gets dark at 4pm! If you struggle to stay motivated during the winter, then help is at hand. We’ve come up with 5 top tips to help you stay happy and healthy during the frostier months.
1. Check your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because we get the majority of it from the sun; but this becomes difficult during the darker, gloomier months. Vitamin D plays a key role in keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy, and is also thought to improve tiredness, immunity and depression. Low vitamin levels can have a huge impact on how we feel physically and mentally, but it can be difficult to recognise when you aren’t getting enough of the good stuff.
People with low levels of vitamin D will often feel lethargic, experience bone pain and/or feel depressed, but they don’t always link their symptoms to a lack of essential vitamins. Your doctor will be able to confirm whether you’re getting enough vitamin D and offer you a supplement if needed. You can also try increasing your intake of vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, cheese, fatty fish e.g. mackerel, and foods fortified with vitamin D e.g. cereals, orange juice, soy milk etc.
Many people also get their winter vitamin D fix by jetting off to a sunnier climate during the winter months, and what better excuse to book a holiday? It could be the boost you need to get you through the rest of the winter months. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a guilt-free holiday.
2. Create a winter support network
No one wants to feel isolated during the winter, so why not get together with your friends and family and agree to support each other throughout the colder months? If you normally enjoy a Tuesday evening yoga class but you don’t feel up to going when it’s dark and raining, then consider asking a friend to give you an encouraging phone call a couple of hours before the class starts. It could give you that push you need.
You could also create a rota system with your closest friends and family where you agree to visit each other a couple of times a week, each taking it in turns to do the travelling. Many people struggle with a low winter mood, so by acknowledging your feelings and reaching out to those around you, you can help each other to stay positive and make the most of the wintry season.
3. Keep screen time to a minimum
If you’re prone to winter blues, then it’s recommended that you limit time spent on computers, smartphones and tablets. Research suggests that there’s a strong link between too much screen time and depression amongst adults. Many of us have a job where use of technology is unavoidable but you should make sure you take regular breaks e.g. go for short walks, read a book, or go to a gym class.
Where possible, try to substitute your screen time for other activities. For example, if you usually spend your evenings watching TV, why not try a new hobby such as learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language? You could also consider volunteering for a charity e.g. by spending an evening helping out at a soup kitchen. You can find out more about volunteering opportunities here.
4. Plan your next adventure
No matter what stage of life you’re at or what season it is, everyone can benefit from having something to look forward to in life. If possible, make exciting plans ahead of time so that even on a bad day you’ll feel reassured that a better day is coming. Make a list of everything you enjoy doing and start brainstorming ways you can turn your ideas into firm plans. For example, if there’s a movie or a theatre production you’ve been wanting to see, or a city you’ve always wanted to go to, then make a date with a friend or family member and book tickets. This way, you can spend less time dwelling on how cold and dark it is, and more time being excited about your next adventure.
If you can keep yourself busy doing the things you love, the warmer weather will be here before you know it!
5. Invest in a light box
If you find it difficult to cope with a lack of light throughout the winter months, then why not consider investing in a light box? A light box is essentially a box of fluorescent lights that mimics natural outdoor light. It can be placed on a surface in the space where you spend the most time e.g. beside your desk whilst you work or on the coffee table in the front room whilst you watch TV.
Light plays an important role in normal brain function and helps to regulate bodily rhythms such as sleep, mood and appetite. Some people need more light than others to help regulate these rhythms and if they don’t get enough i.e. during the winter, it can cause problems.
A light box or light therapy is a great way to make sure you’re getting the extra light you need during the dark winter months. You can browse a selection on Amazon using the link below.
6. Find a new purpose
If you’re feeling a bit down this winter and struggling to get out of bed on those cold, dark mornings, then it could be time to find a new purpose! This could be anything; maybe your job has been getting you down for sometime, or you’re newly retired and searching for your next focus. Whatever your reasons are, step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Whether you’ve been wanting to join an exercise class, foster a dog, or start a new career, there’s no time like the present to get out there and make a positive change to your life.