In the peak of winter, shorter days and colder temperatures can make many of us fall into a gloomy slump called the ‘winter blues’. While maintaining our wellbeing is important year-round, monitoring our mood throughout the change in season can be particularly important. Because in some cases, this can lead to a more severe type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a condition where people experience sadness, lack of energy and fatigue at the same time each year.
Here are some ways this winter that you can stay motivated and beat those blues:
1) Get active, even indoors
At the very minimum, the Ministry of Health recommends that adults complete 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity (or 1.25 hours of vigorous physical activity) each week. It’s tempting to snuggle up in bed all day, but exercise is proven to improve both your physical and mental health including reducing stress and decreasing symptoms of depression.
If the weather’s stopping you from going outside, try at-home solutions such as Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure for something a little different. It can help you sweat it out while being part of a fun adventure game. You can jog, sprint and high-knee through more than 100 levels and customise your workout routine.
Innovative fitness technologies are also being launched, as home workouts become more popular. For apps available in New Zealand, Fitbit and Nike Run Club both include a social sharing component so you can exercise (and compete) with your friends.
2) Stay connected, in more ways than one
Last year certainly taught us how important being social is in maintaining good mental health. Restrictions meant that social interactions and our usual coping strategies were limited, causing a worrying increase in mental health issues amongst Kiwis.
Many new technologies and innovations have emerged due to travel being restricted, so if you can’t connect in person, try hosting an online games night with social deduction games such as Among Us or Town of Salem. You’ll have a blast trying to figure out allegiances and might uncover different (and sneakier) sides to your friends.
While you’re thinking of your own social needs, don’t forget to think of others too. There are more people in need of support (both mentally and financially) than ever before, so try volunteering for your local community or a charitable organisation.
Apps like HelpTank or LetsCollaborate offer a range of different volunteer opportunities depending on your interests. Helping others often has a positive impact on your own wellbeing and happiness and you’ll be making a difference to your community, all while meeting your own social needs.
3) Soak up sunlight, to brighten your day
It’s essential for your body to receive vitamin D in order to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and for general good mental and physical health. Studies also show that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a greater risk of depression, so getting your daily dose of sunlight can be the perfect cure for winter blues.
Your body has the ability to produce enough vitamin D from just 15 minutes’ sun exposure, three times a week. It also helps balance levels of serotonin – a hormone that stabilises mood.
Even if it’s dreary outside, there are other ways you can bring sunshine into your life. Try moving your desk to a window or starting a small herb garden on your porch. The responsibility of having to water or weed your garden will give you an excuse to go outside (and get some fresh air), while reaping the rewards of your work with tasty produce or garnish for meals.
During the colder months, don’t let the winter blues catch you off guard. There are plenty of ways you can fight it and stay positive throughout the winter months.
And if you feel like you need extra support, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Mental health support organisations such as Lifeline Aotearoaand digital mental health platform,Clearhead also offer 24/7, confidential support.
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or text for free 234
Youthline – 0800 376 633
Need to talk? – free call or text 1737 anytime for support from a trained counsellor
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Depression helpline – 0800 111 757
Healthline – 0800 611 116 – to get help from a registered nurse 24/7