7 ways to boost your mental health through winter
We’ve all seen the memes about how when the clocks go back, it feels as if it starts getting dark at 2pm. But while the jokes make humorous viewing on your Twitter feed, the short days, extended darkness and cold weather that comes with the arrival of winter can have negative effects on your mental health.
According to NHS Inform, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes less clinically referred to as the ‘winter blues’, affects 2 million people in the UK each year. SAD can be suffered by people of any background or age, from children to the elderly, leaving nobody immune.
While it is common practice to exercise your body, not enough of us are putting in the time to exercise our minds. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but too often it gets neglected or ignored due to a variety of factors, from laziness to lack of education.
The UK is currently in a mental health crisis, with 1.6 million people on NHS waiting lists for therapy, treatment and support. Additionally, while suicide remains the leading cause of death of men under fifty, there was no mention of suicide prevention spending in the government’s most recent budget.
It is more important than ever to look after your mind, as well as support those around you. To help prevent SAD from having an impact on your mental health, we’ve put together a to-do list of ways to boost your wellbeing this winter.
1. Connect with others
Developing and maintaining good relationships is incredibly important for your mental wellbeing. Socialising with friends and family can help build a sense of belonging and prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, conversing with other people and sharing experiences, particularly in person, is vital to supporting any mental health issues you may be struggling with.
2. Keep active
Exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on our mental health. Even a short walk or a few squats is enough for your body to release dopamine and endorphins, chemicals that can make you feel less stressed and overwhelmed, as well as improve your overall mood. Although it may seem counterproductive, regular exercise will also help increase your day-to-day energy levels.
3. Get outside
When it’s cold and dark outside, it can be tempting to stay huddled up in the comfort of our homes. However, getting out for some fresh air in the hours of the day where there is natural light can make a big difference to your wellbeing. A change of scenery can be a much needed refresh for our brains, plus the extra vitamin D will help boost your immune system.
4. Stay warm
Being cold makes you feel more depressed, which obviously has a detrimental impact on your wellbeing. If possible, aim to have the temperature of your house somewhere between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. If you are unable to do this due to any number of factors, make sure you wear plenty of layers to keep you warm and keep you smiling.
5. Find a hobby
The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), a leading charity supporting those who suffer from winter depression, believes that keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD. The hobby could be anything from knitting to singing, as long as it is something you enjoy and can look forward to doing.
6. See the light
Many people find light therapy an effective way of treating SAD, even if just for a few hours a day. Light boxes and SAD lamps used for light therapy can cost a fair sum (between £50-£100) but you can’t truly put a price on your mental health. In addition, dawn simulators that wake you up in the morning by giving off light that mimics a sunrise can also have beneficial effects.
7. Give to others
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing, as it creates positive feelings and a sense of reward. These acts can range from volunteering in the local community to making donations to charity via the Toucan app. No matter how small or big the gesture, giving to others can help ward off symptoms of SAD. It’s also now easier than ever to donate to causes that matter to you, with Toucan putting the power to be a hero in your hands.
In addition to the advice above, remember it is vital that you seek help if you are struggling with any kind of mental health issue, no matter how big or how small. If you believe someone you know might be suffering, talk to them and show them that they have support. Nobody deserves to feel alone, ever.