How to Care for Your Mental Health This Winter

how to care for your mental health

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  • While some people simply adore the snowfall, cozy nights and brisk chill of the wintertime, it’s understandable that the season can get some people feeling pretty down.

    There are varying degrees of mental health struggles that winter can bring, with many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder — a specific kind of depression that appears during certain times of the year or in certain weather patterns. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with SAD, it’s possible to experience traits of it during certain seasons that leave people feeling especially blue.

    It’s no secret that winter can get old for a lot of people quickly. The sun goes down much earlier in the day, the weather prevents outdoor activities and social gatherings and the stress of the holiday season can also weigh on many people.

    If you happen to struggle with your mental health during the winter, taking care of yourself can be especially important. If you’re looking for some ways that you can keep up with your mental health this season, here are a few things you can do.

    Eat Healthy and Exercise

    While a healthy body can’t cure all mental health ailments, it’s difficult to deny the mind body connection. When you take care of your physical body, you’ll likely feel better on a daily basis, and that can impact your mood.

    While you don’t have to go on a total health kick — the holiday season is obviously the prime time for treats — eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and making sure you stay hydrated can make you feel much more invigorated and lively.

    Additionally, exercise releases endorphins that work to make you feel happier, and that can make a huge difference when it comes to giving you the boost you need.

    Especially as people often get into a bit of a winter slump where they move around less and don’t sweat as much, being intentional about getting some exercise could help you more than you realize.

    Spend Time With Loved Ones

    Sometimes, when the weather is icy and frightful, making the trek out to see family and friends — or even inviting people back to yours — can feel like too much work. But humans are social creatures — environmental factors can affect your mental health, and who you spend time with is a part of your environment.

    By making sure you get your much needed social interaction and connection, you can quell some feelings of loneliness or depression. While everyone has different social needs, everyone has social needs of some kind, and it pays off when you pay attention to them.

    Plus, getting together in person is not the only way to be social. If world circumstances, safety precautions, weather or even scheduling keep you and your loved ones apart more often than you’d like, you can always schedule video calls, virtual chats and other means of meeting over the web. We live in a digital age, and you can use that to your advantage.

    Use Alternative Light Sources

    If you’ve been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, or you simply recognize that light has a direct impact on your mental health, seeking out alternative sources of light for those dark evenings can truly be transformative.

    To start, making sure your house is well lit and doesn’t feel dark and drab is highly important — even if you don’t notice a direct correlation between light and mental health. Living in the dark isn’t good for your well being or your eyesight.

    If sunlight specifically is what you’re missing, you may find a solution in a happy lamp — also often called a sun lamp. These are lamps made specifically to mimic the light of the sun and the effect it has on the brain. By spending just a few minutes a day by a happy lamp, many people with seasonal depression notice a difference in their mood.

    Get Outside if You Can

    If your area happens to be just chilly rather than cold or have a few odd warm days, getting outside for a little bit of time can give you a bit of reprieve from a perpetual life indoors that winter can bring. Fresh air and natural sunlight can lift your mood, even if all you do is take a brisk walk.

    Alternatively, you could embrace the wintertime fun and get outside in all the frozen glory. Try out a winter sport like skiing or snowboarding, or even take the kids outside to make snow angels and have a snowball fight. This can make it feel like you’re truly enjoying the opportunity for a switch in season.

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    Practice Self Care

    While practicing self care is important all year round, it can be especially helpful to dive into self care habits during the winter if you happen to be feeling low. While taking care of your mental health through healthy eating, staying well lit and exercising are all forms of self care, there’s so much more you can do to keep your mental health in full priority.

    Really listen to yourself and your needs this season. If you feel like you need to relax, take a night off and run a bath. If you feel like you need to get moving, try out a quick yoga flow.

    If you find that you’re spending a lot of time indoors, use that time intentionally to take up practices that make you happy — they could be anything from meal prepping to meditation.

    Taking Care of Yourself This Winter

    Your mental health is always a priority, no matter the time of year. But if you happen to struggle during the colder months, there are so many things you can do to keep your mood a bit brighter. From happy lamps to snowball fights, wintertime doesn’t have to be dark and drab. It could even become a relaxing, rejuvenating time of year.

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