We’re officially on GMT, and you know what that means: short days, long nights and a whole lot of melancholy.
It’s somewhat normal to feel down at this time of year – even if you don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the drop in sunlight naturally messes with and depletes our levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with making us feel happy.
‘The clocks going back often heralds the start of the busiest time of the year for therapists like me,’ said Danny Greeves, a therapist and member of the Association of Psychological Therapies (APT).
‘For many people, there can be a feeling of the year coming to a conclusion and that can create challenges around achievements, goals, missed opportunities, reflection and loss.’
If you’re anticipating a mood drop in line with the temperature, have a read of Danny’s top tips for beating the winter blues.
Set winter-specific goals
According to Danny, we often feel the most fulfilled – and happy – when we’re making progress towards meaningful goals.
This could be anything from exercising more to learning an instrument or saving a specific amount of money.
Now, running outside isn’t always as inviting in the darker months, but you could still reach your goal by heading to the gym or exercising at home.
‘As the nights draw in, many of the activities we enjoy during the summer months are no longer available to us, but that doesn’t mean this time of the year can’t be enjoyable,’ Danny said.
‘Whether it’s starting a new crafting project or setting a home workout fitness goal, find an easy way to record and track your progress.’
For an added incentive, Danny suggests picking out some winter themed rewards to celebrate as you go to help you stay focused in the weeks ahead.
Cultivate a winter mindfulness habit
‘Extensive research shows the benefits of mindfulness to both our mental and physical health,’ said Danny.
For him, one of the most important psychological benefits is being able to notice and observe our thoughts.
‘By becoming more mindful, you’ll be able to notice when unhelpful or negative thoughts come along and become more skilled at letting the thoughts go, rather than letting them have power over you.’
You could implement a new winter meditation routine (sticking to this also feeds into the previous suggestion of having a winter goal), take a quiet walk at lunch time or even choose to do household chores, like washing the dishes, mindfully, by concentrating only on the task at hand.
Learn something new
Finally, why not try learning something new?
‘Your brain’s reward network lights up when you learn something new that interests you,’ Danny said.
‘Not only do you get the mental benefits of increasing your knowledge, improving your memory and greater mental flexibility, learning inspiring new information gives you a regular dose of the feel-good chemical dopamine, boosting feelings of pleasure and achievement.’
You could do this by stocking up on those non-fiction books you’ve had on your reading list for months or cuddling up on the sofa for a documentary night.
You could even try a free online course or YouTube series to learn a completely new skill, like crocheting or sewing.
Danny Greeves is an award-winning therapist and member of the Association of Psychological Therapies (APT), the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT) and the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).
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