Expert tips to flip your winter woes sunny-side up

Ways to tackle the winter blues
Sarah Biddlecombe,-Lifestyle Editor

Got a new year attack of the blahs? Not any more if you follow these easy steps to make over your mood

Hunkering down for the cold weather, dark mornings and even darker evenings of winter can be tough. The NHS says that around two million of us in the UK are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms include a persistently low mood, irritability, a lack of energy and issues with sleep, which can make these months feel neverending.

But! Some good news. There are a few small steps you can take to help ease your symptoms. And remember that winter won’t last forever – spring is coming, and it’s smiling and holding a big bunch of daffs.

Soak up the light

We’re already well past the winter solstice – the shortest day of was 21 December, meaning we get a bit more daylight every day (right up until the summer solstice on 21 June).

The mental health charity Mind recommends maximising your exposure to daylight to help ease the symptoms of SAD. Try breaking up your day with a lunchtime walk in a park or through some woodland, and enjoy the additional wellbeing boost that comes from spending time in nature. If possible, move your desk so you’re near a window, too.

Try investing in a SAD or ‘wake up to sunlight’ lamp. SAD lamps cleverly mimic the natural light of sunrise and sunset to help regulate your internal body clock and can therefore improve your sleep and mood.

Get moving

When it’s cold, dark and drizzly, the last thing you feel like doing is hitting the gym or going for a run. But the endorphin rush we get from moving our body really can help with how we feel, which is why the NHS recommends regular exercise as a self-help treatment for SAD.

If you’re struggling to know where to start, a programme such as Couch to 5k will give you a workable structure to stick to, or you could pair up with a friend and be each other’s accountability partner. You don’t actually need to leave the house to move your body – try one of the thousands of workout videos available on YouTube instead. Joe Wicks is popular for a reason, people.

Prep mate

If you know you’re going to struggle with motivation and energy during the winter months, why not prep ahead? We’ve all experienced the feeling of finishing up after a long day of work and having to create a meal from scratch. On your next rainy day off, spend time batch cooking your favourite meals and popping clearly labelled one/two/however-many-person portions in the freezer. Something hearty like a chunky veg curry can even be heated from frozen – you’ll never be caught short again. Life is too short to eat sad dinners.

While nights out and/or school events are thing on the ground, you could also get a jump-start on buying any cards or presents you know you’ll need for the next few months. Busy April You will love January You for putting in the effort.

Hygge it out

Winter may be a time for retreating into our shells and staying cosy and warm at home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sociable, too. Research shows that spending time with friends can boost happiness, reduce stress and improve self-confidence. Leaning on your loved ones during this time could be just the tonic you need, so get them round to play a game or four, light some candles and it’ll be spring before you know it.

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