Winter is a great opportunity to reset and plan for the summer months ahead, however for many it can be difficult to get past the dark mornings and evenings, and financial dent that Christmas has left on bank balances.
Although there is no official diagnosis for the winter blues, medical professionals have identified symptoms as a persistent low mood, feeling lethargic and a general loss of interest in everyday activities.
Despite this primarily being brought on by weather conditions and the change of seasons, there are various habits that can be adopted to help boost mood and general wellbeing.
Big Cottages, the UK holiday rental marketplace for groups, shares five tips to raise our spirits during the winter months.
1. Start a new hobby
It can be tempting to spend the dark winter evenings curled up on the sofa, but research shows that challenging yourself to learn something new can have some fantastic positive benefits on mental health.
Whether it’s learning a new language, or getting creative with anything from sewing to baking, now’s the time to start.
Taking up a new hobby or interest helps build engagement and motivation, things which tend to suffer during winter. Starting a new book or puzzle is a great way to stimulate the mind and will act as an escape from reality.
Developing culinary skills is a cheap and fun hobby. As well as being a great way to take control of health and food intake, cooking can be an easy, low-cost way to socialise with friends and family.
2. Get moving
It’s widely believed that exercise beats the blues and medical experts do agree there’s truth in the saying. Physical exercise releases endorphins which are ‘feel good hormones’, meaning active hobbies are a great way to boost mood and productivity levels during winter3.
When it comes to exercise, there isn’t a one rule fits all meaning splashing out on an expensive gym membership isn’t necessarily the only answer. Whilst it might be too cold to run or play sport outside, a home workout can be a great substitute and also avoids having to battle the winter weather!
4. Make the most of lunch breaks
Daylight has been proven to have a direct impact on our happiness levels4, but it can be tricky for people to get their daily fill during the winter months when working 9-5.
Instead of spending lunchtime tapping away at the computer, grab some headphones and head out for a quick walk to get a midday dose of vitamin D. Getting fresh air and a change of scenery is a great tactic to boost mood, recharge batteries and reduce stress levels.
If the weather is not up to scratch, try moving to a different part of the office, preferably next to a window, and listening to a podcast or reading a book. Getting away from the computer will allow time to reflect on thoughts and goals.
5. Give yourself a break
Winter is a great time for goal and resolution setting, but if reaching these goals are dropped in favour of a night in the pub or a takeaway, it can often have a negative effect on happiness.
If the year hasn’t quite got off to the expected start, don’t let it have an impact on motivation, treat each day as a fresh start.
Taking time each evening to write down thoughts is an effective way to stay positive and help feel prepared for what’s to come.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no
Winter is a hard enough month without feeling a need to make everyone else happy as well. If rest and relaxation is what’s needed to get through then don’t be afraid to say no to people – there’s nothing wrong with prioritising some me-time.
Self-help author, Sarah Knight, says we spend too much of our time pleasing other people and advises in her best-selling books how to be more selfish with our time including tips like the ‘not sorry method’. Amongst the in-depth lessons on ‘mental de-cluttering’, the bottom line is to stop caring what other people think!
Whilst giving a hundred percent to the people around us may seem like the best thing to do, there is no point showing up to something if we are not mentally present. Not only will saying no build mental resilience, it makes us appreciate the times we do spend with people we love, doing things we have chosen to do.
Harriet is a travel expert at Big Cottages. This involves scouting out all the best places to go and sharing this with customers, so they can have the perfect, fun-filled UK break.