8 tips for a healthy body and mind during winter

Amelia Thorpe talks about the best ways to stay happy in winter

Amelia Neri
17th December 2020

From long nights to bitterly cold mornings, cruel winds to winter blues, winter is as hostile as the Starks make it out to be. Some days you wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to take on the day. Whereas other days, you feel like your mind-set is as miserable as the weather. And just as you thought winter couldn’t get any worse, COVID-19 crops-up once again as if it were a weed or an unwanted guest. Government enforced restrictions around COVID have pretty much made a good quality of life illegal; closing gyms, shops and many sectors of hospitality.

  • Change your diet!
    As always, a balanced diet is crucial for your everyday health. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet ensures you are getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep it ticking over nicely. This doesn’t only apply to your physical health, however, having the right amount of each vitamin also improves your mental health.
    Research from multiple sources concludes a link between low mood and low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, such as: zinc, omega-3, magnesium and vitamins D, B-6 and B-12.
    Therefore, it is very important to make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients, and if you don’t feel like your diet provides that, you can always take a daily multivitamin to ensure that you’re giving your body what it needs.

Although there is not much keeping morale high at the moment, a little bit of TLC can go a long way over.

Staying active, motivated, and healthy (physically AND mentally) is vital if you want to stay jolly over this season.

So, here are 8 ideas that’ll help you do just that:

  • Make most of daylight hours.
    I know the days are short, but it is very important for your wellbeing if you get yourself outside while there is still natural daylight. One of the main causes of seasonal affective disorder (SAD – AKA: the ‘winter blues’) is lack of natural bright daylight. This is because prolonged lack of bright light causes a biochemical imbalance in the brain, as when light hits the backs of our eyes, messages are sent to our brain which control sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity. When levels of light are low, these functions may slow down. However, If you’re having to quarantine or are semi-nocturnal (like me), bright light therapy is also an option. Bright light lamps are often inexpensive (I bought mine for £15) and work within a few days - just place it on your desk for a few hours each morning and let it do its magic.
  • Exercise!
    This one’s a no-brainer. Regular exercise releases endorphins that can aid your mental health. If you’re exercising outside, do so while the sun is still up (you’ll feel much better for it, trust me) and make sure you stay warm and wrapped up. If you’re currently quarantining, or if it’s too cold, consider doing your own indoor gym activities, such as buying a kettlebell or resistance band, or by following one of the many free yoga or workout videos available on YouTube.
  • Socialise as much as you can
    Although this may be hard with social distancing rules in place, many people have been getting creative with their communication over lockdown. From calling a friend for a chat to hosting a family pub-quiz on Zoom, there will always be a way to socialise. Maybe spend more time with the people you live with or create a small support bubble if you really need to/live by yourself.
  • Be kind on yourself
    Stay positive and try not to let yourself spiral into a pit of negative thoughts about lockdown never ending and life never improving. It will end eventually and you will get through this and be stronger than ever, so don’t give up! I’d recommend keeping a mindfulness journal, and every day jot down 3 things you’re grateful for in your life, it can be a close friend, something you’re proud of, your pet, anything (as long as it’s positive). 
  • Make it a habit
    Over lockdown, most of us have had no real routine to stick to, which is detrimental as humans, by nature, are creatures of habit. So, plan ahead: keep planner/diary to plan your day, week or even month. Jot down any upcoming deadlines to save yourself from future stress. Also, sort your sleep out! Make it a routine to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, keep well rested and try not to become nocturnal (trust me, it’s a BAD idea). Sorting your sleep out will not only give your day more structure, but will also aid your physical health, making you feel more refreshed and motivated.
  • Selfcare is healthcare!
    I know the uncertainty of the situation is worrying to almost everyone, but try and take some time out your day to de-stress. Take a break from uni work or whatever’s running you down, sit back and relax. Maybe watch a film, have a hot bath, play on a computer game, listen to music, meditate – whatever, just do anything you usually enjoy and relish in it.
  • Talk about it.
    Consider talking to someone you trust, like a close friend or family member, if times get tough. And if you’re not yet ready to open up to someone you know about it, there are always people willing to help. Perhaps you could ring your GP about how you’re feeling and get referred to a therapist. However if you’re feeling really low and need to talk to someone immediately, here are some suicide prevention lines you can call:
    - Samaritans: 116 123
    - Shout: text ‘Shout’ to 85258
    - Papyrus: HOPELINEUK – 0800 068 4141
    - CALM: 0800 58 58 58

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