5 Strategies to Maintain Positive Mental Health Throughout the Winter Months
Saturday the 10th of October is World Mental Health Day and to celebrate this we have put together five strategies to help you maintain positive mental health and wellbeing, especially as the nights draw in and the temperature drops. 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and there is still a lot of uncertainty as to how long the pandemic will last, so it is vital to find ways to maintain a positive outlook.
1. Reflect on the past
Although many of us would prefer to hit the reset button on this year, it is good to take some time to reflect on everything that happened; think about what went well and how that made you feel, think about the things that did not go as well as you hoped and what you learned from them and then think about how you will change things moving forward. Reflection can help us learn about ourselves and improve our ability to see challenges as positive moments to growth. There are several reflective models that you can use to help structure your reflective process such as Kolb’s Reflective Cycle, Gibbs Reflective Cycle or the Driscoll Model. You can choose any model that you feel most comfortable with because they all follow the same basic premise; first describe in detail what happened and how it made you feel followed by an evaluation of why that was a good or bad experience for you, then an analysis of what you did well or what you could have done differently and finally, decide how you want to tackle the months ahead, how will you challenge yourself?
2. Stay connected with family and friends
Humans are a social species who rely on cooperation and social interaction to survive and thrive. 2020 has been a year without hugs, without shaking hands and without large social gatherings. Many people have been separated from family and friends and this has contributed to an increase in mental health issues with some psychiatrists forecasting a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness yet to come. Thankfully, we have technology that enables us to stay connected, although this is virtual, it is better than nothing. This is especially important in the winter months when it is cold and dark and temptation to stay inside to hibernate is greater.
3. Wrap up warm and get outside
During the winter there is reduced sunlight and this means we produce less vitamin D. Vitamin D acts like a hormone and every cell in your body has a receptor for it. You can find Vitamin D in oily fish and some fortified dairy products but you are not able to get enough of it from your diet alone. There are serious side effects from Vitamin D deficiency including a compromised immune system (not great while we are in the middle of a pandemic), fatigue, depression, bone and back pain, osteoporosis, hair loss and muscle pain. Most of our Vitamin D is produced from our cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Spending time in ‘nature’ has an additional bonus for us, our brains really like wide open spaces, the tops of trees and the coast, these environments are not only calming they boost your energy supplies. So, make the most of the daylight hours in winter, when the weather permits, If you have an outside space at home, you can make it cosy with fairy lights, outdoor heaters or a firepit, which is perfect for small social gatherings under the stars or a romantic date with your partner.
4. Have a back-up plan
The weather in the UK is unpredictable and it can be unpleasant to be outside as much as you would like in the winter. So, have a back-up plan in place for activities that you can do indoors. Playing board games or doing puzzles will help your family stay entertained and stimulated. Finding new hobbies or enrolling in courses and qualifications is a great way to give you a positive focus and give your CV a boost. Luckily many training providers such as Marshall Centre have adapted many of our qualifications and courses so that they can be delivered virtually and safely without compromising on the quality.
5. Be kind to yourself
It is easy to slip into a self-critical mindset but self-compassion is more important than ever. Self-compassion includes self-kindness, mindfulness and common humanity. Treat yourself and talk to yourself as you would a dear friend. Practice using a kind and companionate inner-voice instead of being self-critical and comparing yourself to others.
Jo Boyd is the head of wellbeing at Marshall Centre and we would like to invite you to watch her video where she explains the five strategies in more detail. Stay healthy, happy and well everyone!
If you are currently struggling with your mental health remember that support is out there, please talk to your local services, friends or family and visit Mind for better mental health to access resources.
If you want to talk to someone privately call 111 Mental Health Services or text SHOUT to 85258 (UK-wide). Alternatively, you could call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org