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Staying Mentally Well During Winter

By Molly Gorman

It’s no secret that January can be a really difficult month, and is often known as the Monday of the year. For many of us it looks something like this: we’ve spent all of our early pay packet on Christmas celebrations, are back at work after some time off, the weather is rubbish, we’re bombarded with New Year diet culture, self-punishment rhetoric, and are flooded with a resolution discourse which asks how can we possibly better ourselves this year?

There are some small things you can do to keep yourself mentally well during winter, small things which will have a big impact. Personally, I try to stay away from social media and the media in general as much as possible. This is particularly due to the overwhelming volume of weight loss and gym ads that want to take away the joy we felt by indulging over the festive season.

This January, I’m finding myself frequently rummaging through my kitchen cupboards - whether that’s in search of a row of Dairy Milk (or the whole bar), another cup of tea to disguise the draft coming in through my single-glazed window, or that extra piece of buttery toast to accompany my soup. I need the warmth and comfort that food provides, as temperatures are cold and we’re covered by a blanket of darkness by 4:30pm.

2022 is probably the first year that I’m not succumbing to diet culture and actively restricting my intake. Instead, I’m focusing on nourishment, balance, and feeding my happiness through taking the time to make delicious meals. The act of cooking is an art, and I personally find it therapeutic to gather my ingredients, turn on some music and spend anywhere between twenty minutes and a couple of hours cooking a delicious meal. January doesn’t have to mean deprivation and misery - making the time to cook helps me a lot.

I’m also trying to move my body as and when I feel like it. Seeing exercise as joyful movement and thinking of both the mental and physical benefits to your body when you do move is really wonderful. Going outside to get some fresh air makes the biggest difference - whether that’s a walk, a jog, a dance in the back garden, or a yoga class - movement will release those endorphins.

Most importantly, I avoid the idea of New Year's Resolutions. I may have some broader goals in mind for the year, but the concept of sparking some form of change within ourselves each new year can be detrimental. We commit to the idea of revamping ourselves - whether that’s on the inside or outside - and if we don’t fulfill our resolutions we may feel as if we have failed, subsequently affecting our mindset and the way we treat ourselves. Currently on TikTok there’s a desirable aesthetic amongst women to become ‘that girl’ - the girl that wakes up at 5am, does a workout, makes a protein smoothie, journals and meditates all before the working day begins. However being ‘that girl’ definitely isn’t me and isn’t always attainable or sustainable.

Live your life in a way that fulfils you and makes you feel good. That doesn’t mean that you have to be productive all the time - don’t feel guilty for using your precious time the way you want to.

If you find that resolutions make you feel more creative and give you something to focus on, perhaps curate a shorter list of goals or intentions to aim for. Take it easy, and make smaller changes which you can celebrate daily. During winter we need to listen to our bodies, remember to rest and make any achievements count, whether that’s getting up in the morning, making your bed and taking a shower. Remember, be kind to yourself.

Here are some top tips on how to stay well during winter from others:

• Take vitamin D - every single day!

• Try and get outside in the natural light, whether that’s for a walk or a run

• Even if the weather is rubbish, getting out in the wind and rain can make you feel alive

• Book a holiday to look forward to and make plans for the summer ahead

• Take time away from your phone and either play a game or read a book

• Practice gratitude and have discipline in completing day-to-day tasks

• Practice mindfulness every evening before bed

• Not obsessing over New Years’ resolutions

Ignore the pressure to lose weight with the new year

• Say positive affirmations every day - it can change your mindset

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