With the magic of Christmas and New Year’s well behind us, January is often viewed as the worst month of the year.
Combined with poor weather, low motivation, stress and uncertainty, the start of a new year can often bring immense pressure to your mental wellbeing.
Society has bombarded us with the impractical expectation that this is the time to ‘get it together’ and become the best version of yourself.
While the concept of this may seem uplifting and optimistic on the surface, it can often leave us feeling disheartened when unrealistic resolutions are not fulfilled.
Jennie Birch, Fundraising and Communications Officer at Improving Lives Notts, said: “Whilst it is great to set a goal and to be motivated, we often advise people to really break it down into manageable and more realistic chunks tailored to their personal situation; it is much more sustainable this way.”
The upcoming months are especially important when prioritising your wellbeing and participating in activities that make you feel good. Here are five tips that can help you beat the winter blues.
Tip One: Practice Self-Compassion
Amy Harley, an Occupational Therapist, said: “One thing that we should all have on our radar is self-compassion, as it is essential to our wellness and leads to greater resilience in our lives.”
Self-compassion simply means being kind and considerate, rather than bringing yourself down when you fail or feel inadequate. It is okay to remind yourself that your motivation and productivity may drop during this time of the year, and acknowledging this is a great first step.
Amy said: “Engage in meaningful activity. As an Occupational Therapist this is clearly my favourite.
“Meaningful activity makes us feel good – especially if we can get lost in it and lose sense of time, or can share an activity gaining connection with others.”
Self-care is essentially the actions and approaches that embody being self-compassionate, and listening to your own needs.
Jennie said: “It [self care] can involve doing something relaxing, like having a bath or even taking a nap or doing something that brings you joy, such as watching your favourite movie or taking part in a hobby.”
Tip Two: Gratitude Journaling
Spending five minutes journaling each morning is the perfect way to start your day on a positive and grateful note.
By simply writing down or saying aloud three things you are grateful for, it helps to reframe negative thoughts and feelings and pay attention to the good areas in life you might otherwise take for granted.
Although it may seem silly at first, this simple exercise has been associated with lower stress levels, increased self esteem and positivity through consistent practice.
Tip Three: Low-Impact Exercises
The cold, rainy weather that lingers throughout the winter months is enough to make anyone swap their running shoes for slippers and stay at home.
Thankfully, the already-trending Pilates movement is here to stay throughout 2023 as its low-impact exercises help to relieve tension, burn fat and promote mindfulness – and you can do it from the comfort of your living room.
The slow, precise movements have a large focus on breathing control. As well as leading the action, these full breaths help relax the muscles and promote mind clarity and calmness.
Tip Four: Take Vitamin D Supplements
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is most prominent during the winter. Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it is often linked with reduced exposure to sunlight due to shorter days in the winter.
As your body predominantly makes vitamin D from direct sunlight, taking a supplement during the shorter, darker months is essential to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.
Research suggests that taking vitamin D supplements may help to relieve symptoms of SAD, such as tiredness and low mood.
Tip Five: Listen to Uplifting Podcasts and Books
The type of media and content you consume can have a huge impact on your wellbeing. Listening to a motivational podcast is a perfect way to start your day, as it can open your mind to new approaches to challenges within your own life.
Jennie said: “Podcasts and books can be a great way to avoid consuming unnecessary content.
“It can also support people to focus their energy on one area of their life, rather than the overwhelming sense of having to be better or change everything in one go.”
Amy recommends the podcast ‘Feel Better Live More’ with Dr Rangan Chatterjee, which covers a wide range of wellbeing topics and interviews with leading health experts.
To find out more about Improving Lives Notts and the work they do to support people in Nottingham, visit their website here.