10 Tips to Support Your Wellbeing in Winter
Winter brings with it a unique set of challenges, from shorter daylight hours to colder temperatures, and more.
While many people look forward to the holiday festivities and the beauty of snow-covered landscapes, it’s crucial to remember the potential impacts on our wellbeing in winter.
As the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, our routines, mood, and health can be affected in various ways.
In this blog, we will delve into why it’s even more essential to prioritise our wellbeing during these colder months, understand the challenges winter poses, and offer ten actionable tips to help you stay at your best.
Whether you’re someone who loves the winter months or someone who counts down the days until spring, these wellbeing strategies are designed to benefit everyone.
Why Looking After Our Wellbeing is Even More Important in Winter
The transition from the warm, sunlit days of summer to the chilly, darker days of winter can be more than just a shift in weather.
This transition can profoundly influence our mental, emotional, and physical states.
Here’s why prioritising our wellbeing in winter is essential:
Reduced Sunlight Exposure
The shorter days mean we get less exposure to sunlight, which can lead to a drop in serotonin levels.
Serotonin is often called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, playing a pivotal role in mood regulation.
A decrease in this chemical can lead to feelings of sadness or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some individuals.
Cold temperatures and less inviting outdoor conditions can deter many from their regular physical activities.
Yet, regular exercise releases endorphins, another set of “feel-good” chemicals that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Changes in Diet
Winter often brings with it festive holidays and comfort foods that can be high in sugars and fats.
While these foods might offer temporary pleasure, they can also lead to feelings of lethargy and can impact our overall health if consumed excessively.
The cold can sometimes deter us from social activities, leading to increased feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Social connections are vital for our emotional health, offering support, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns
The longer nights and shorter days can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm, leading to changes in our sleep patterns.
A good night’s sleep is essential for cognitive functions, mood regulation, and overall health.
Given these factors, it becomes evident that winter demands a more proactive approach to our wellbeing.
By understanding these impacts, we can take steps to mitigate them, ensuring we not only survive but thrive during the winter months.
The Challenges We Face in Winter
Winter, while beautiful and serene, comes with its set of unique challenges that can affect our overall wellbeing.
Recognising these challenges is the first step to overcoming them and ensuring that we remain resilient and joyful throughout the season.
Here are some of the primary obstacles we encounter:
Shorter Daylight Hours
One of the most immediate changes we notice as winter approaches is the decrease in daylight hours.
This reduction can influence our internal body clocks, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and changes in our mood.
Cold and Adverse Weather
The drop in temperature and the potential for snow, sleet, and ice can limit our outdoor activities, often confining us indoors.
This confinement can lead to feelings of cabin fever and restlessness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This mood disorder affects some people during the winter months when daylight decreases.
Symptoms are similar to depression and can include fatigue, hopelessness, and social withdrawal.
Susceptibility to Illness
The winter season often sees a rise in colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses.
This increase is due in part to spending more time indoors, in close proximity to others, and the challenges our immune systems face in colder weather.
While the festive season can be a time of joy and celebration, it can also bring about financial pressures, high expectations, and the stress of family gatherings.
Winter festivities often centre around food and drink.
While this can be a source of comfort, it can also lead to overeating, alcohol overconsumption, and subsequent feelings of guilt or physical discomfort.
Lack of Physical Activity
As mentioned previously, the cold weather can deter many from engaging in regular exercise, leading to potential weight gain and decreased physical wellbeing.
Dry Air and Skin Issues
The combination of cold outdoor air and heated indoor environments can lead to dry, irritated skin, and respiratory issues.
Understanding these challenges is crucial, as it equips us with the knowledge to develop strategies to address them head-on.
In the next section, we’ll delve into 10 actionable tips to support your wellbeing in winter, helping you navigate these obstacles with ease and confidence.
10 Tips to Support Your Wellbeing in Winter
Winter may pose its challenges, but with the right strategies, we can navigate this season with grace and vitality.
Here are ten tips to help you maintain and even enhance your wellbeing during the colder months:
1. Embrace Natural Light
The lack of sunlight during winter can have profound effects on our mood and energy levels.
To combat this, it’s essential to maximise our exposure to natural light.
Start your day by opening the curtains and blinds in your bedroom, living and workspaces.
If possible, position your desk or workspace near a window.
Taking short breaks to step outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes, can also be beneficial.
For those living in extremely dark regions or facing prolonged periods of overcast skies, consider investing in a light therapy box.
These mimic natural sunlight and can help regulate mood and sleep patterns.
2. Stay Active
It’s easy to fall into a sedentary routine during winter, especially when the weather doesn’t invite outdoor activity.
However, physical activity is very important in maintaining our mental and physical wellbeing.
While it might be tempting to hibernate, it’s crucial to find ways to keep moving.
You don’t need to brave the cold for a jog, although it’s still an option.
However, indoor exercises like yoga, pilates, or even dance can be just as effective.
If you prefer outdoor activities, wrap up warm and consider winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating.
Even a brisk walk in the fresh winter air can do wonders for your mood and overall health.
Remember, the key is consistency, so find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.
The key to maintaining exercise is setting good habits.
Check out our blog “4 Steps to Create Life-Changing Habits”
3. Eat Seasonal and Nutritious Foods
Winter brings with it an array of seasonal produce that’s not only delicious but packed with essential nutrients.
Incorporating foods like root vegetables, leafy greens, and winter fruits can provide the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function optimally during the colder months.
For example, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A, essential for immune function.
Citrus fruits, abundant in winter, are loaded with vitamin C, which can help fend off colds.
Additionally, it’s important to not binge eat the foods that we know are bad for us.
By making a conscious effort to consume a balanced diet, you provide your body with the fuel it needs to stay energised and healthy in the winter months.
4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
The winter months, with their longer nights and serene landscapes, can offer a perfect backdrop for introspection and mindfulness.
Taking time each day to meditate or practice mindfulness exercises can significantly impact our mental wellbeing.
These practices help reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a sense of inner peace.
If you’re new to meditation, start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.
Guided meditation apps like headspace can provide structure for beginners.
Beyond formal meditation, simple practices like deep breathing exercises or even mindful walking can integrate moments of calm and awareness into your daily routine.
By fostering a mindful approach to life, you’ll likely find winter’s challenges more manageable and its beauties more appreciable.
5. Connect with Loved Ones
Winter, with its festive holidays and long nights, provides an ideal opportunity to nurture our social connections.
While the cold might make going out less appealing, it can be the perfect excuse to invite friends over for a cozy dinner or a movie night.
For those who can’t physically be with their loved ones, technology offers a range of ways to connect.
Regular video calls, online game nights, or even watching a movie together virtually can bridge the distance.
Social interactions play a pivotal role in our emotional wellbeing.
They can counteract feelings of loneliness or isolation that might creep in during the cold months.
Sharing experiences, laughter, and memories can warm us from the inside out, making winter feel less daunting.
6. Create a Cozy Environment
Our surroundings can significantly impact our mood and wellbeing, especially during winter when we spend more time indoors.
Embrace the season by making your living space a haven of warmth and comfort.
Snuggle up with soft blankets, plush pillows, and ambient lighting to create a cozy atmosphere.
Incorporate scents that evoke warmth, such as cinnamon, vanilla, or pine, using candles or essential oil diffusers.
Keeping your living space tidy can also promote a sense of peace and order, alleviating stress.
Additionally, consider introducing indoor plants, which not only purify the air but also add a touch of life and greenery to your surroundings.
By crafting an environment that feels warm, inviting, and nurturing, you’ll be supporting your wellbeing every time you step through the door.
7. Set a Regular Sleep Schedule
Sleep is a foundational pillar of wellbeing, and its importance cannot be overstated, especially during winter.
The extended darkness can disrupt our body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to potential sleep disturbances.
To ensure restful nights, establish and stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Create a bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to wind down.
This could include reading a book, practicing deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music.
Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, as the blue light emitted can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
Since I’ve been sleeping with my phone outside of the bedroom I’ve noticed a positive impact on my sleep quality.
Try to ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature can also enhance sleep quality.
By prioritising restful sleep, you’ll equip your body and mind to handle winter’s challenges more effectively.
8. Engage in Creative Activities
Tapping into our creative side can be a therapeutic way to navigate the winter months.
Engaging in creative pursuits can act as a form of expression, allowing us to process emotions, alleviate stress, and foster a sense of accomplishment.
Whether it’s painting, knitting, writing, or crafting, these activities can be both enjoyable and beneficial for mental wellbeing.
For those looking for winter-specific projects, consider creating handmade gifts for the festive season.
Not only do these activities offer a productive way to spend time indoors, but they also provide an opportunity to immerse oneself in the present moment, fostering mindfulness and joy.
9. Limit Screen Time
In the winter months, when outdoor activities might be limited due to weather conditions, it’s easy to find ourselves spending more time in front of screens, be it for work, leisure, or simply passing the time.
While technology offers many conveniences and forms of entertainment, excessive screen time can strain our eyes, disrupt sleep patterns, and even contribute to feelings of isolation or mood disturbances.
To promote wellbeing in winter, set designated times for tech breaks.
Perhaps consider reading a physical book, playing board games, or engaging in non-digital hobbies.
If you’re watching TV in the evening, try to switch it off at least an hour before bedtime to ensure better sleep quality.
Allocating specific times for checking social media or emails can also prevent the endless scroll and allow for more mindful engagement with the digital world.
10. Seek Professional Help if Needed
While many of these tips are geared towards self-help and personal strategies, it’s crucial to recognise when professional intervention might be beneficial.
Winter can exacerbate feelings of sadness, loneliness, or even lead to conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you find that winter consistently brings about a low mood, or if feelings of hopelessness or lethargy persist, it might be time to seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
Therapists or counsellors can provide coping mechanisms, resources, and support tailored to individual needs.
Websites like BetterHelp can link you with therapists to support you where possible.
Remember, prioritising your mental health is a sign of strength, and seeking help when needed is a proactive step towards ensuring wellbeing in winter and beyond.
In the heart of winter, as we navigate its unique challenges and beauty, it’s paramount to prioritise our wellbeing.
By integrating these tips into our daily routines, we can transform this season from merely enduring the cold to truly embracing and thriving in it.
Remember, winter, with its serene landscapes and quiet moments, offers a chance for introspection, growth, and renewal.
As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, let’s also take this time to nurture and care for our inner selves.
With a proactive approach and a dash of winter magic, we can ensure our wellbeing remains robust, allowing us to greet the coming spring with renewed vigour and joy.
Tyler Lowe – Health & Wellbeing Speaker
BSc Sport & Exercise Rehabilitation