Whether we like it or not, the only constant about the seasons is change and change is upon us once again. According to the NHS, the winter blues (otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder – SAD) affects more than two million people.
Although this seems like a small statistic, in comparison to a UK population of 67 million, mental health is at the forefront of all our minds. We must now, more than ever, find ways to manage, discuss and process our feelings and thoughts.
So how can we stave off the incoming darker, colder, wetter days ahead? According to Mind, there are five key areas we can all focus on to look after our mental health.
We all know that exercise is one of the most underrated forms of therapy. Regular physical activity is heavily associated with lowering rates of depression and anxiety. Essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and promoting well-being, exercise is paramount for living and it does not have to be taken to the extreme.
Start your morning with a walk. Allow yourself a break from your work or screen time by encouraging yourself to do a little movement.
Set yourself a basic physical intention for the day and allow yourself to celebrate when you have achieved it. Perhaps the most important part is to celebrate it alone first, rather than posting it for the world to see. The only gratification you truly need for succeeding at something is your own.
Connect With Nature
One of our world's greatest treasures is the great outdoors. Designed purely for us to enjoy, as long as we equally protect it, familiarising ourselves with nature and people is paramount for us to keep surviving as human beings.
Feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and what better way to do it than to be outside. Ring or see someone instead of emailing them – you will also considerably reduce your carbon footprint (yes… it’s a thing!).
Really listen to what someone is saying. Ask them questions and actively encourage yourself to understand the answers. Discover a new walk. Open your eyes to new places, even if these can only be on your doorstep. Take a breath and just be.
Build An Infrastructure For Mindfulness
Perhaps one of the most important life lessons we can teach ourselves is how to take notice of your surroundings. When life can be chaotic and stressful, we need to find ways in which we can ‘declutter’ our minds and lives. Take time to clean your house or room or car.
We spend the majority of time travelling from one place to another, whether it is physically or mentally, remote working now conditions us to be physically located in the same place. Create your own healthy environment to enjoy both. Find a way to separate them so they don’t become too heavily intertwined.
Get dressed for work. Turn your computer off when you have finished your work. Don’t let work infiltrate all your conversations. Don’t let anger or annoyances permanently pollute your mindset.
Learn New Skills
Heavily and appropriately connected with mental health, continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and social interaction. As children we are taught structure and are endlessly encouraged to learn more; to push ourselves harder and further and really explore our potential. Do not let being an adult stop you from pursuing this.
Set yourself goals. Sign up for something new. Read a new book or even article. Reduce your screen time. Spend five minutes discovering something new about yourself. Never stop learning.
Give To Others
Kindness and love are two of life's greatest free currencies.
"There is no such thing as a selfless act… nor should there be. We don't have to be selfless to avoid being selfish." ~ Bill Crawford.
Ask if someone is REALLY ok. Surprise someone with a small gesture. Buy yourself a present. Make an effort to talk to someone you barely speak to or haven’t spoken to in a long time. Forgive people – we are all allowed to make mistakes. Let go of bitterness. Hold onto every ounce and memory including happiness. Tell someone exactly how you feel. Think before you react.
Treat someone the way you would want to be treated.