Supporting your Mental Health this Winter
Summer for most of us will now feel like a distant memory, as the days are now shorter, the dark nights are here and the weather much colder. We are all individuals and the effects of winter will affect all of us differently and not every day is going to be a good day.
You may have heard of the “Winter Blues” where people feel down, and they may notice changes in their appetite, mood, and sleep. The “Winter Blues” affect many of us, it’s not that we simply become lazy as the days shorten the reality is a biological change happens.
When it is dark the brain produces more Melatonin which helps your body get ready for sleep. The lack of sunlight in winter can also result in lower levels of Serotonin- this is an important chemical, also known as a ‘happy hormone’. Reduced exposure to light can cause imbalances of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which affect our mood.
Research suggests these two changes, can contribute Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD are listed by NHS and can include a persistent low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness, feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day, craving carbohydrates and gaining weight, difficulty concentrating and a decreased sex drive.
There are however many ways we can help towards lifting our mood:
Exposure to Sunlight - Whether this is sitting indoors or outdoors, 30 minutes or more of sunlight is considered beneficial to your mind and body.
Going for a brisk walk - Staying active throughout winter is paramount for a healthy mind and body. Why not venture out for a winter walk? Walking is great cardio and can also be a way to socialise with friends.
Staying connected - Isolating yourself from others can affect your mood. Try Inviting people over for a games night or connect with a family and friends over a phone or video call. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being.
Healthy diet - Winter is time for some wholesome soups and stews to warm up the heart and the body. Why not explore some new recipes? Giving nutrition to your body such as Vitamin D-rich foods like fish, eggs, and mushrooms, that help prevent seasonal depression and infections.
Start a new hobby - Make self-care a priority and take some time out to explore new interests or even old ones. A new hobby will give you something enjoyable to focus on.
Volunteer - Give some time to your community. This will be a great way to socialise and meet new people. Helping others is a great way to make us feel happy whilst also supporting others in need.
Sleep – Maintain a routine that encourages rest at bedtime, such as drinking soothing tea, playing soft music or relaxing sounds, and turning the lights down. Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time and make sure you have some light (natural or artificial) to greet you when you do.
The links below provide some additional support and information which could just help over the Winter Period. A talk with your GP for some support and advice is also an option for supporting good Mental and Physical Health over the Winter Period.