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Thinking differently about mental health and wellbeing

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14 December 2018

10 Ways to Keep the Winter Blues at Bay

1. Spend time outdoors during daylight hours

At this time of the year we often only get minimal exposure to the sunshine, be it our working hours or the weather, it’s easy to miss the sun altogether during the winter months. Exposure to sunlight is understood to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which is associated with boosting mood and helping us to feel calm and focussed.

Why not schedule a lunch time walk, jog, or cycle to increase your time spent outdoors? If this isn’t practical for you, you could focus on getting outdoors on your days off work or squeeze in some fresh air pre-work? Find something that works for you and notice if it lifts your mood or helps enhance a sense of calm.

2. Get your heart rate up

Exercise can have a positive impact on your mental health. In order to reap the uplifting mood benefits you need to exercise at a moderate pace, meaning you need to get your heart rate up to an aerobic level i.e. a brisk walk.
*Remember to check with your GP before starting a new exercise, especially if you have an injury or an existing medical condition.

3. Meet up with a family member or a close friend

Contact a close friend or family member that you enjoy spending time with to organise a catch up. Nourish and make time for your relationships, even when you’re busy. A good way to do this is to plan a weekly or monthly catch up at the beginning of the year, before your diary gets busy to make sure it happens. Sharing quality time with friends and family helps alleviate loneliness and stress for all involved so is always worth prioritising.

4. Eat healthily

Most of us know that limiting our sugar, alcohol and junk food intake helps us to feel better but ensuring that you have a varied and healthy diet, rich in nutrients and minerals can help us to focus better, reduce anxiety, lift our moods and boots our energy. 

Try to include good fats, complex carbohydrates (think brown pasta, rice and bread), lean proteins, wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and foods rich in vitamin and minerals.
For inspiration, look for some recipes via the Good Food website.


 5. Make home time quality time

It’s easy to spend the best part of the evening scrolling, tidying or watching TV. If you set aside 30 minutes or so to do something you truly enjoy and that makes you feel good, you may notice a shift in your mood and appreciation for alone time. You could try something like reading, knitting, colouring or creating mood boards, something that requires your undivided attention to help you drift into a relaxed state after a busy day.

6. Practice self-care

Self-care doesn’t have to mean a day at the spa or even a whole day ritual. Self-care means taking some time out of your schedule and allocating it to looking after yourself. This could be taking a bath, going for a walk in nature or even a 10 minute meditation. Work out what you need and set some time aside to make it happen, as regularly as you need. Some great inspiration can be found here.

7. Write a gratitude list

To begin with this practice can feel forced or even seem slightly cheesy but with a little bit of practice you will soon start to notice everyday things in your life that are indeed, small miracles.

It’s easy to go about life without paying too much attention on the things that we are so lucky to have and to focus on what we don’t have but if you start to write a daily gratitude list you can re-focus on what you do have and feel good about it, too.

8. Learn something new

Learning a new skill can boost your self-confidence and bring a new sense of purpose to your life. It could be a practical skill that will serve you in everyday life or even a new academic subject. Commit to learning a new skill every year, research suggests it will keep you young and boost your brain power too!

9. Tend to your environment

Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint, pass on plastic or start your own vegetable patch, consider your environment and think about where positive changes could be made.

It could be that you would like to create an outdoors vibe inside your house by getting some plants, you may want to improve your street by picking up litter once a week or you may want to reduce your plastic consumption by making some practical swaps in the items you purchase. Caring for our external environments makes us feel good and will build a better place for future generations too.

10. Prioritise your sleep routine 

Most adults need between 7-9 hours sleep at night to feel their very best. We need sleep so that our bodies and minds can recover from the day and a lack of sleep can leave us feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted. 

Due to our increasingly busy lives it's easy to forget how important sleep is and we can dfind ourselves substituting a bad night's sleep with caffeine or sugar the following day. It's not always possible to ensure a good sleep and there will be times that your social life takes precidence but when you can, try to stick to a good sleep routine; going to bed and getting up roughly the same time and ensuring between 7-9 hours. You will be thankful when you wake up with good energy levels to take on the day! 

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