With the temperature dropping and the days getting shorter, it’s important to consider our wellbeing as we head into winter. This year, our wellbeing is more important than ever, as we face times of uncertainty, isolation and social distancing.
We know that extreme weather changes can negatively affect mental health. During times of extreme cold, people are staying inside more and this form of ‘hibernation’ can increase depression. With winter days being shorter and having limited sunshine, our bodies produce less serotonin and more melatonin. This means the neurotransmitter associated with happiness is decreased while the chemical associated with depression and sleepiness is increased.
It’s important to be mindful of how winter weather can affect your mental health and be prepared for it. Here are some top tips for staying well this winter.
- Stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Never has this been more crucial to maintaining wellbeing. At a time when we are working remotely, and distanced from family and friends, it can help our wellbeing if we make time to connect. It’s definitely a good way of using technology to keep our relationships strong.
- Maintaining a healthy diet during the colder months helps to keep you physically fit and mentally well too. Good nutrition is essential and there is scientific evidence to support the link between, for example, reduced anxiety and certain food groups. It can seem hard to stick to healthy eating during the cold and dark months and this is where meal planning can help us stay on track to reduce comfort eating.
- Exercising in daylight hours is a great way to beat winter blues. Studies link increased exercise to better moods for people with depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you’re able to exercise outside during daylight hours (think walks at lunchtime), you’ll get more of that elusive vitamin D from sunlight which is good for bones, teeth and muscles as well as for mental health and wellbeing.
- Get some sleep. Not too much… not too little. Whilst it’s tempting to hibernate during the winter months, getting too much sleep can make us sluggish and impact on our ability to function. If you are worried about your sleep, take a look at The Charity for Civil Servants’ partnership with Sleepstation to see how they can support you.
- Learn to relax. It’s not always easy to get out and about during the winter months so it’s worthwhile exploring ways to relax at home. This could be a good time to explore Mindfulness. Not only will it help you to relax, it also provides you with the opportunity to practice self-care. You can try mindfulness through The Charity for Civil Servants and their partnership with Breathworks.