Winter can be a wonderful time of year, full of festivities and time with family and friends. But once the glow of Christmas wears off and the reality of the New Year sets in, it can be a really challenging period.
It’s very common to experience low moods, a lack of motivation, tiredness and depleted energy levels. As many as two million people in the UK are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This disorder is sometimes referred to as the ‘winter blues’, and it’s a very real problem that can impact anyone, even children.
As January progresses, it can be difficult to keep up those resolutions and goals we set for ourselves at the start of the month, as our motivation wanes in the cold and dark winter weather. We decided to team up with life skills expert Liggy Webb, to share some of the little things we can all do to lift our spirits and feel more energised.
1. Take action step by step
When we feel low and lethargic it can be a struggle to get going, and that in itself can make us anxious that ‘we should be doing more’. But identifying and taking one small step towards doing something positive can boost our mood. It doesn’t have to be a big effort, just something small.
Liggy says: “Once we take the first micro step, the next one will be easier and before we know it, we will start to feel a little better and a little brighter. So by just taking that very first micro step you may well surprise yourself with what can be achieved along the way.”
2. Don’t forget to stretch
If you’re sitting at your desk or in one position for a long time, it is important to make a point of standing up every thirty minutes and stretching. Even if you only do it for a couple of minutes, it will make you feel great.
“Stretching is an excellent mood-boosting activity and this is one of my absolute favourites!” explains Liggy.
“Apart from the physiological benefits, such as increased flexibility and the reduced chance of injury, stretching has other benefits too. It helps release neurochemicals in the brain, like serotonin, which is the primary chemical associated with joy and elation.”
3. Laughter is the best medicine
This may seem like a basic thing to do. However, the simple act of smiling can give us a real boost. Smiling stimulates neural messaging in our brain that helps to elevate our mood. A smile can trigger the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Liggy has a quirky, but effective tip to help you smile: “This may sound a bit whacky, however when we look in the mirror first thing in the morning, it’s worth taking a moment to pause and smile at our reflection. Start your day the way that you want it to continue and remember that life is like a mirror, smile at it and it smiles back at you.”
Similarly, laughing has major benefits. It can decrease stress hormones and increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, promoting an overall sense of wellbeing and relaxation. Endorphins can even temporarily relieve pain.
So, whether it’s watching your favourite comedian or connecting with someone who shares your sense of humour, finding a way to let the laughter into your life and smile can be one of the best mood boosters of all.
4. Eat ‘good mood food’
Foods such as sweets, biscuits, sugary drinks, and alcohol can all make your blood sugar rise and fall rapidly, impacting your mood in a negative way. Liggy recommends making it easier to choose healthy snacks, by chopping up fruit and vegetables beforehand and keeping them ready to go in the fridge.
“If you are looking for a quick energy boost, try a handful of pumpkin seeds, a couple of Brazil nuts, almonds or walnuts and a small piece of dark chocolate. This is a much more nutritious treat than a refined sugary snack. Personally, I love eating lots of green leafy vegetables because they are rich in vitamins and minerals and great for health and energy,” she says.
Of course, it’s all about balance. Dieting culture booms at this time of year, after many of us feel that we (over)indulged at Christmas. Remember that you don’t need to feel guilty about a biscuit or two. Simply finding a balance and understanding what foods will make you feel good will help you form long-term habits.
5. Get some fresh air
Exercise is highly beneficial for our mental health and overall mood and even on a cold day, it is so important to wrap up and go for an energising walk. With so many more people now working from home, it could be easy to stay indoors all day which isn’t healthy. Breathing in fresh air and absorbing natural daylight is especially important in the winter months and the cooler weather is great for invigorating and stimulating the senses.
Liggy recommends commuting to work, even if you’re home-based: “Getting into the habit of doing a ‘fake commute’ to and from work is a great way to start and finish the workday and helps us to set healthy boundaries between work and home time. Even if you only walk around the block, it will make you feel so much better.”
If you aren’t able to get out and about, or want to boost your mood indoors, you could try a SAD lamp, which replicates sunlight to help boost your mood, or position yourself by a window.
Here to help
Winter can be a tough time of year, and the current cost pressures are only adding to people’s stress levels. Remember to reach out to your friends, families and colleagues if you’re feeling blue, worried or stressed, and should contact your GP if your low mood is persistent.
You can find more helpful guides and resources from Liggy Webb here. And, to make your day even brighter, you can get 25% off in Liggy’s bite-sized books, which provide practical tips and tools to develop your essential life skills. Simply click here and use the code SAVE25 at checkout.
And don’t forget to speak with your local branch if you have any concerns about the cost of your insurance premiums. We have a range of options to help you manage payments, as well as a handy money saving booklet filled with handy budgeting tips.
Search Howden Insurance, visit your local branch or speak to an advisor via telephone.
Sources: Liggy Webb, Independent, NHS Inform