Five Tips for Feeling Bright During Shorter Winter Days
Now that the build-up of Christmas and all its festivities are over, the shorter days and longer nights might feel a little more intimidating. Whilst the evenings will slowly begin to get lighter as the weeks pass, it could still feel like a bit of a challenge to spend time outdoors.
Whether you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or you simply feel a little low during the days of less sunlight, it’s important to put your mental health at the forefront during the darker and colder months. We’re sharing our top five tips for looking after your mental wellbeing whilst we wait for the days to get longer.
Go for a walk
We know it’s a challenge, especially when the weather is cold and wet, but whenever you can, wrap yourself up in a warm coat, put on a pair of wellies and get out for a crisp winter walk.
If you find your motivation wanes as the day goes on then try to leave the house as soon as you are up and dressed. If you take a few hours to get started in the morning, then why not arrange to meet a friend at a park at lunchtime?
Gardening has also been shown to have a host of benefits, and is a great way to get in your fresh air and sunlight quota for the day. If you are able to grow your own produce, why not check out our recipes corner for some amazing recipe ideas?
Sometimes our days feel as though they stretch ahead with no specific plan for them. If you’re struggling to fill your days, then volunteering could be a fantastic way to get you out and about and interacting with people.
Speak to your local charity shops, National Trust sites or town hall to see where you can give your time. You could also look at helping in your local community garden. If you haven’t already got one in your area, you can read about how to start it in our article, The Growing Benefits of a Community Garden.
Helping others can give you a sense of achievement and happiness that helps to mitigate any negative emotions you may experience from the darker months.
Try taking advantage of the dark evenings and late mornings by enjoying some good quality sleep. The amount of rest that a person needs varies depending on the individual, but you will know what your body responds best to – not enough and you’re likely to feel tired all day, too much and you may feel groggy. Our independent Occupational Therapist, says that:
“If your body doesn’t get enough sleep it can react by producing an elevated level of stress hormones, resulting in higher incidents of depression and anxiety, plus other mental and emotional problems. Sleep helps to reduce stress by encouraging deep breathing and lowering heart rate.”
– Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC
Don’t forget that your choice of bed and mattress can greatly impact how well you rest. You can find out more about our beds and mattresses on our adjustable bed page.
Spend time with others
Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been deprived of spending time with the people we love. You might have become tech-savvy and been video chatting on Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime, but there’s nothing quite like proper time together in person.
If it’s safe and government restrictions allow, try to make as many plans as possible with those you haven’t seen for a while. If you feel comfortable, invite someone to your home for a cuppa and chat, meet a grandchild at a café and treat them to a cake, return to your evening classes that you haven’t been back to yet.
When we’re spending time with others it can help distract us from the negative feelings we may be experiencing. It will also give you a chance to talk in-depth with people who love us unconditionally.
For those who suffer from more serious mental health concerns due to the shorter hours of sunlight during autumn and winter, such as SAD (Seasonal affective disorder), a commonly suggested remedy is light therapy.
The Mayo Clinic advises that “Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing SAD symptoms. Using a light therapy box may also help with other types of depression, sleep disorders and other conditions. Light therapy is also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy.”
If you find that you’re being affected more than usual by the darker months it could be a helpful avenue to try.
Being aware of your mental health can be challenging, but doing so helps you to live a more fulfilled and productive life. Over the next few months, look after your mental wellbeing by being mindful of this guide, and hopefully, you will be able to avoid the winter blues.
Don’t be afraid to ask for additional help. Ask your GP for a wellbeing referral or call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you need someone to speak to right away.