Keeping Your Candles Lit
8 tips for maintaining your mental health this winter
Written by: Emma Driban, JFS Content Developer
As the days grow shorter and fall transitions into winter, it’s not unusual to feel a bit down. The cold weather and long nights mean less time in the sun and more time spent indoors. For many Americans, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) brings a new depth to winter’s darkness. SAD is a form of depression, usually experienced during late fall and winter, that impacts an estimated ten million Americans.
Some symptoms experienced by individuals with SAD include feelings of irritation, hopelessness, or worthlessness; changes in eating habits, like overeating or excessively craving carbohydrates; lack of energy or loss of interest in enjoyable activities and hobbies; or trouble with sleeping, either by experiencing insomnia or sleeping too much.
Whether you experience SAD or not, if you find yourself feeling low this winter, try some of these mental wellness tips.
1. STAY CONNECTED.
During the holiday season, not to mention the ongoing pandemic, it’s important to keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Isolation has a significant negative impact on mental health. Find ways to stay virtually connected or gather safely in person. Respect your social limits, but push yourself to leave the house every now and then.
2. TAKE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.
Speaking of leaving the house, it’s been proven that short walks in nature can improve your mood. Take advantage of the limited sunlight and bundle up for a short walk. Set goals to go out a given number of times a week; walk around your neighborhood or the nearest park and soak in the health benefits of being in nature.
3. STAY ACTIVE.
If you can’t get outside, there are ways to exercise right in your own home. Plenty of health enthusiasts virtually share and guide you through their routines. Yoga, cardio, tai chi, and many other forms of exercise can be found on platforms like YouTube or could even be offered online through local athletic clubs or gyms.
In addition to online exercise, virtually guided mediation is a great method to boost emotional and mental health. Meditation and mindfulness can work by changing how your brain reacts to stress and anxiety and help you return to focus when negative thoughts, emotions, or sensations intrude.
5. ADD AROMATHERAPY.
Using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, not only adds ambience to any activity, but has possible positive side effects for your mental health. Essential oils have the potential to influence the area of your brain responsible for controlling moods as well as the body’s internal clock which influences sleep and appetite.
6. CARE FOR PLANTS.
Caring for something small like a houseplant can add a small purposeful moment to your day. Studies prove that gardening can reduce feelings of depression.
7. MAKE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT.
There are many benefits to creating a schedule for your daily activities. Eating at regular intervals can help avoid over- or under-eating. Setting designated times for exercise, especially walks outside, can expose you to natural daylight at consistent intervals. Overall, maintaining a schedule can help improve sleep, which might alleviate some symptoms of seasonal depression.
8. KEEP A JOURNAL.
Journaling is a great way to reflect on your day, prioritize life’s problems, acknowledge gratitude, and lift your mood. Many people view journaling as a way to get your negative feelings out of your system.
Trying any combination of these suggestions could help improve your mental health before, during, and after the winter season.
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