Weather can affect how we feel, think and behave. Many people notice that their outlook can be partially influenced by the temperature, colour of the sky and how much rain or sunshine they get. In the winter months, the colder temperatures, reduced hours of sunlight and vulnerability to sickness can naturally make us more likely to hibernate, be less active and slip into unhelpful lifestyles. This can mean our moods can dip more easily, without us even realising it. We may feel a bit more down, less motivated and find it harder to bounce back from moments of sadness. This is sometimes referred to as Seasonally Adjusted Disorder (SAD). Below are five ways to manage our mood during winter:
- Increase opportunities for sunlight and exercise. This may mean rearranging your daily schedule as the sun sets earlier in the evening. Vitamin D levels typically lower in the winter, making us more prone to fatigue. Exercise generates endorphins and dopamine, so we may need to be more deliberate with producing these “feel good” chemicals in the winter.
- Strike a balance between different kinds of activities. While we might crave creature comforts or prefer to stay inside, resist the urge to engage in only sedentary activities. Plan your week out in advance so you can see if you are striking a helpful balance. If not, try to create a mix of being indoors and outdoors with a variety of physical activity levels.
- Form and keep healthy lifestyle habits. The colder months can make us more prone to spending more time in bed, eating foods that are higher in fat or drink more alcohol. Notice when you slip into these habits and make wiser choices to look after your body. This will also do the immune system a favour when colds and flus notoriously spread during this time of year.
- Be flexible and creative. Regularly doing relaxing and enjoyable activities helps us to have a stable mood. Your usual interests, hobbies or sports may not be as available. Find alternative things to do and be open minded to trying new things. Being more intentional with socialising in different ways can also help.
- Practice mindfulness. When we’re less active than usual, it can make us brood, with more negative or worried thoughts going through our minds. Having structured activities can help us have other things to focus on, especially if we’re doing them mindfully. Mindfulness is about being grounded in the here and now, and attentive and curious about our experiences.