Don’t get SAD this winter

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting darker and the mornings are getting colder. But hey, it’s not all bad! Instead of thinking of that numb nose and toes, just remember that the Christmas bells are ringing on the horizon. So while the next few months have the potential to cause as many blues days as Jamie Cullum, there’s no reason why it can’t be as productive and positive as any other time of year!

Here are 5 ways you can keep the blues at bay this winter:

1. Stay social

So you’ve finished work and it’s darker outside than Frankie Boyle’s sense of humour, and your runny nose is really snot funny, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing fun things with friends! It’s a great season for new films with the Oscars not far away, and the cinema provides a nice warm place to spend an outrageous amount of money on popcorn.

Your local theatre will be showing its yearly pantomime which you keep going back to no matter how terrible it is, this year featuring another washed up celebrity you forgot existed. And then there’s the festive fun such as ice skating, Christmas markets, and Christmas shopping, once again realising you have no idea what to buy your dad!

Not cutting off friends through these months is vital as despite being tempting to get straight into your PJ’s and burrito in your duvet, going out and catching up with the latest gossip over a pumpkin spiced latte is actually good for your mental health!

2. Stay active

Doing a sport, whether it be competitively or socially, is fantastic for your mental wellbeing through the winter months! It is well documented that running is a great way to reduce any depressing feelings. The feeling of completing a task oriented goal you set yourself is highly rewarding and great for the mind, and running provides a very clear path to achieving these goals. Having completed the Bournemouth Marathon recently I can confirm that the pain in your legs is certainly outweighed by the enjoyment of social training runs and the feeling of achievement when you cross the finish line!

Local running clubs will provide a safe way to run on those dark evenings, and will cater for all abilities, so lace up those trainers and get yourself outside!

Photograph of person stretching outdoors

3. Eat healthily

So Halloween involved sweets, December has the advent calendar, and Christmas/New Year, well we won’t go into that in regards to eating well, but for the rest of those winter months having a healthy diet can lead to having a healthy mind!

Eating healthy foods, such as plenty of fruit and veg, and natural foods such as fresh fish and meat will lead to an improved immune system. This increases your physical health, which has a direct effect on increasing positive emotions.

So enjoy the edible delights of the winter months, but don’t get too carried away!

4. Get a new hobby

Get a new hobby. Instead of starting the latest series to land on Netflix, why not try your hand at something completely new? Winter is a great time to add a new skill to your repertoire as there are evening classes galore filling the ad pages of your local newspaper. There is such a range of hobbies available too, it could be slipping into your apron to take up baking Great British Bake Off style (minus Paul Hollywood peering over your shoulder).

Photograph of freshly baked biscuits on an oven tray

Alternatively you can don those dance shoes and do your best Ed Balls on Strictly impression at your local Salsa class. Why not learn a musical instrument or have singing lessons (let’s face it, you can’t be any worse than Ottavio & Bradly from the X Factor).

All of these activities are great for mental wellbeing as they not only make your more social, but provide you with new goals and targets to set your mind to.

5. Keep a diary

Throwing yourself into all of the above activities is a great way to keep a healthy mind, but unfortunately they might not always stop the pang of sadness when you realise it’s no longer the lovely, long days of summer. If this is the case, then write all your feelings down in a diary for yourself. It doesn’t matter if this diary is for your eyes only or if you’re willing to read out at Wembley Arena, the fact is, writing about your feelings helps your mental wellbeing. By putting your feelings into words, you have done the hardest step of tackling those negative emotions, as a narrative has been created with those feelings and you can plan ways to counteract them (see previous 4 points for examples).

Alistair Souch

Ali Souch is psychology student at Cardiff University, currently on a placement year the National Centre for Mental Health.

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