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5 tips to help look after our mental health this winter

We suggest 5 practical tips to help look after our mental health this winter, when decreased exposure to sunlight can leave us with low mood, poor motivation and less energy.

Most people will admit that their energy levels change at different points during the year. We may feel happier and more energetic on warm days when the sun is shining and there are plentiful hours of daylight. Conversely, we may have less energy and feel we need to sleep more and lead a quieter life during the cold, shorter days of winter.

It’s believed that decreased exposure to sunlight has an impact on our ability to produce serotonin and melatonin. Both these hormones can have an effect on our mood, motivation and energy levels. Given that we live in a country with long winters and often little sunlight, here are some actions we can consider to help us look after our mental health this winter.

Talk kindly to yourself

If you are beating yourself up for not getting through your to-do list:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • Try to change your thinking pattern
  • Celebrate achieving one item on the list rather than berating yourself for still having many outstanding
  • And wherever possible, re-schedule tasks for the times in the year when you will be having exposure to more daylight and increased energy; keeping the more mundane, simpler tasks for the winter months.

Keep moving

One way we can boost energy and look after our mental health in winter is to keep exercising, in whatever form suits us. We may find it more difficult to motivate ourselves but will reap the rewards. Be flexible, if you really can’t face heading out for a brisk walk because the wind’s howling in from the North, do an exercise or yoga video inside instead.

Don’t isolate yourself

It’s well documented that having a good support network is beneficial to our overall wellbeing. Sometimes the combination of a lack of energy and a dark, cold night is enough for us to call off social plans or stop making them in the first place. Remember though that our effort will often be re-paid many times over by the benefits felt after an evening full of laughter and good company.

Be careful

Negotiating icy pavements and difficult driving conditions have negative connotations, but they can present a good exercise in mindfulness. When out and about, practise being in the present moment, slow down and really pay attention to your walking or driving.

Consider food and drink choices

For example:

  • Eating regular, healthy meals and snacks stabilise our blood sugar. Although we may be tempted by the sugar spike we experience after eating a sweet treat, it’s worth remembering that it will be short-lived and followed by a drop in both our energy and alertness.
  • Being in heated environments can lead to us getting dehydrated which can be disguised as feelings of hunger, tiredness or a lack of energy. If drinking cold water in cold weather is unappealing, we can swap it for hot water and infuse it with lemon and ginger or mint for a refreshing winter drink.


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