Cosy jumpers, crisp night skies and dramatic landscapes — winter certainly has its moments, but the shorter days and lack of sunshine can take a toll on our moods.
Around 3% of people in the UK are affected by the winter blues to some extent. If you struggle to keep on an even keel in the darker months, we’ve come up with five ways to improve your mood. From mindfulness exercises to ensuring you get enough natural light, here are the best mood boosters to try this winter.
Let the light in
Mood and energy are closely interlinked. If we lack the energy to get things done, it can impact negatively on our mood. Likewise, a low state of mind means we feel less motivated to do things.
Underpinning both mood and energy is light. Natural light curbs the production of melatonin and regulates our sleep/wake cycle.
There is also evidence to suggest that sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin (our bodies’ ‘happy’ hormone). Not only that, but sunlight is our main source of energy and mood-boosting vitamin D. So, it’s no wonder we feel so emotionally and physically depleted in the darker months.
To help boost both your mood and energy, get out in natural daylight as much as possible, whether that’s a morning walk or lunch in the park. When working, position yourself as near to the windows as possible and open your curtains and blinds fully. Make sure your windows are clean and aren’t obscured by plants.
The right kind of artificial light can also be beneficial. Consider buying a light alarm clock which will help you wake up feeling brighter. Or try working in front of a light box.
When we’re feeling low, we’re more likely to neglect our health or indulge in unhealthy habits.
In addition, stress and anxiety can weaken our body’s immune systems, making us more susceptible to illness. Periodontal disease, for instance, has a direct link to stress.
Mindfulness activities such as meditation, doing jigsaws or colouring in can help to reduce stress by making you focus solely on the moment and not your whirring thoughts.
Meanwhile, make a promise to take good care of your health. Eat healthily and cut down on alcohol. Arrange a flu jab and your Covid booster if you’re eligible. If your gum health is suffering, making an appointment for gum disease treatment is the first step to getting you back on track.
Write a to-do list
Christmas deadlines, present-buying, social engagements — life is demanding at the best of times, but the festive period can make even the most organised people feel like they’re going to snap.
If the hectic nature of daily life is causing you stress or anxiety, try creating a daily or weekly to-do list.
Writing tasks down not only helps put a seemingly endless list of things in your head into perspective, but the very act of ticking them off your to-do list is an instant mood booster. Knowing you have achieved something, no matter how small, can work wonders for your mental health.
Celebrate the good things about winter
Of all the ways to improve your mood, it seems obvious that doing things you enjoy will have the biggest impact. However, so many of us forget to make time for ourselves, especially during the Christmas period.
Making time to enjoy the good things about winter will hopefully help you feel less dread about the change in season in years to come.
It could be finding the perfect pair of fluffy slippers, a takeaway coffee on a wintery walk, listening to your favourite music in a comfy chair or board games with the family on a gloomy afternoon. Focusing on pleasure can help you establish more positive associations with winter, not to mention the instant mood-booster effect that doing something fun can have.
We all know that exercise makes us feel good. It’s a stress reliever, it relaxes us and produces feel-good chemicals. In fact, exercise is one of the best mood boosters you can do, and is especially important in winter, when a lot of us tend to feel down.
The problem, of course in winter, is that it's a lot more tempting to hunker down at home.
Don’t let the dark or cold weather give you a convenient excuse. A warm jacket and running gloves can make a chilly winter’s night much less intimidating. Or switch to the treadmill or do lengths at the pool.
If motivation is an issue for you, rope some friends in so you can encourage each other. Whether that’s trying a new yoga class, a brisk walk round the park or a game of five-a-side, your mental health will thank you for it.
We hope you’ve found our five ways to improve mood helpful. What tricks do you use to boost your mood in the winter?