The clocks have gone back and we know it is hard to get out of the house when now the weather is turning on us. Shorter days that are often plighted with rain, wind and greyness. Despite this, it is still vital to keep active, both mentally and physically, through the often gloomier months.
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, staying active can help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and reduce anxiety. Staying mentally active is also extremely important to help fend off the ‘winter blues’ and keep in a good frame of mind.
So what can you do to keep both mentally and physically active this winter
Why do I feel low in the winter?
There is a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can be linked to people’s low moods during the winter months, it is often coined as ‘winter depression’. The symptoms of SAD can include a low mood, irritability, loss of enjoyment or interest in everyday activities, difficulty concentrating and sleeping for longer and waking up lethargic.
SAD is not fully understood and it is not entirely clear what causes it but the link to winter months may be due to the reduced exposure to sunlight. When we don’t see the sun as much we have an increased production of melatonin, a hormone that makes people feel sleepy. People with SAD have higher than usual levels.
We also have a lower production of serotonin. This is a hormone that affects mood, sleep and appetite. When we have a reduced exposure to sunlight it is possible for serotonin levels to drop. This could explain the feeling of depression in the winter months.
Thirdly, our bodies use sunlight to time functions such as when we wake up. Lower sunlight levels and light hours could disrupt our body clocks and disturb our sleep patterns. We all know how we get without enough or proper sleep!
SAD can also affect people of all ages, including children. It is important for everyone of every age to care about their mental health and seek support if you feel you need it.
How is SAD treated?
There are some simple sounding ways and some a little more difficult ways to get yourself out of the slump this winter which include lifestyle choices, therapy and counselling sessions.
If you are able to adjust your lifestyle around the winter then it has been suggested that getting some exercise in and getting as much natural light in as possible will help to improve the symptoms of SAD.
Another way suggested by the NHS to undergo light therapy where a specialised box is used to simulate sunlight which can in turn attempt to raise serotonin levels.
A third way suggested is by taking part in mental health therapy sessions to help you identify the route of your low mood and to help you talk through what is causing you concerns. This is also a good way to help find a solution from a mental health professional.
Why is it important to address when you are not feeling quite right?
Thankfully the days of just bottling up our emotions seem to be a thing of the past and people are talking about things when they need to. It is one of the most important things to do for your mental health and a great way to get things off of your mind.
Things that you may think people will find trivial are in fact very important to talk about. Including why you may be feeling a little down this winter.
It is important to talk about things because it is thought that the more you keep the things that upset you or are causing you anxiety bottled up, the more you will think about them, or usually overthink about them. This could potentially make things worse for you and really start to affect your mental health.
Alternatively though, if you don’t want to talk about things or you are not ready to, then you may feel better by trying out some of our ideas to keep you and your family active this winter and help to stave off the long winter blues.
Top 5 activities you can do in the winter with your family
We know the weather in the UK is not particularly good at this time of year so it may put you off from going outside for long periods of time but here are some ways you can do activities inside and outside to keep your family happy and active this winter.
I know we are all a little sick of this throwback to the year and long event, that won’t be named, that kept us sll inside, but when the weather is bad and you feel restless watching TV. Why don’t you try out a free online workout. Do this on your own or with your family, you will feel better as soon as you have completed it!
Get the endorphins flowing and get yourself feeling good by completing some great workouts.
Play some games
We know now that picking up a controller and escaping into the world of gaming is easy and fun. But time away from the screens is also beneficial. Most of us spend all day typing away on a computer, then to drive home to sit in front of another screen for hours on end.
Why not try playing board games with your family or try making your own game together. It is a great way to spend an evening that keeps your mind active.
Get stuck into a new book
Give yourself an hour an evening to unwind but at the same time as keeping your mind active and imagination intrigued by reading your favourite book or reading a new book.
Reading not only gets you away from the screens but helps to increase brain connectivity, improves your concentration and helps you to escape to a new world.
Brave the weather
Sometimes a walk in the cold does us all some good and wakes us up a bit. Wrap up in your biggest jumper, brave the weather and take a stroll to your favourite spots to get some fresh air and see some nature.
Or, if you are out and about in the bad weather, maybe go for a run or a jog. That will certainly keep you warm. Do remember though to keep safe when out in bad weather, make sure to tell somewhere we you are going, keep a phone on you and wear high-vis clothing so drivers can see you.
Volunteer your time
If you are a little bored this winter and want to give something back then why don’t you try your hand at volunteering?
It is a great way to stay active and give back to those who may be having a tougher time than yourself at the moment. Times are difficult at the moment but if you could give even one hour a week to something that you feel passionate about supporting, then your effort will be rewarded with the fact that you have helped someone.
Volunteering can be done individually or you can get your whole family involved and make a new routine this winter to keep you all active and occupied.
So whatever you want to do this winter to keep active, then remember that it can be a perfect time to get your family together and try something new or just carry on with something you all enjoy.