January can be a time we struggle with in a normal year. But a winter lockdown can be especially challenging. And January 18th is said to be ‘Blue Monday’ – the most depressing day of the year. But it’s actually not. It was created as a marketing ploy by a travel company as a way of encouraging people to book holidays! So this month doesn’t have to be any more difficult than any other day.
And we do have a choice as to how we approach each day. We can choose to do little things to help make each day that bit brighter, lighter or cosier.
After all, winter is traditionally a time when animals and the natural world goes into hibernation. A time when we nourish and nurture ourselves in preparation for spring. A time when we rest.
Winter is a season when we aren’t really meant to be going out and being busy, pushing ourselves to get through it. Although I do know that some of you are having to do that too, especially if you’re a key worker (THANK YOU for what you do if you are!) or are home-schooling. So don’t forget that there is power in rest and retreating from the craziness of the current world too.
If you struggle with this time of year, these are our top tips to help you thrive rather than just survive:
- Daily walks or just getting outside in the fresh air are vital for our sense of physical and mental wellbeing. And if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate or are feeling especially anxious, try a more mindful walk. An example of this is to use all of your five senses when you walk – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Focus on what you can see around you, all the sounds you can hear, everything you can smell, is there anything you can taste in the air, feel your feet touch the ground as you walk. Or you make it easier by focusing on five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can smell, two things you can feel or touch and one thing you can taste in the air. And if your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Recent studies suggest a link between creativity and depression. Those of us who are more creative types do have a tendency to feel depressed more, but they also have the ability to harness their depression into something creative. So, if you’re feeling low, getting out of your head and doing something creative to lift your spirits could help, whether that be putting pen to paper and writing something, painting, playing music (something upbeat and uplifting or something that makes you dance round your living room works for me!), or using your hands to make something. Check out some virtual art classes as one idea here.
- Focus on maintaining human connection to those people in your world to stop a sense of isolation creeping in. Our friendships and relationships are so important. So make time to call or text a friend. Reach out. You’re not only helping yourself but others too. And just imagine the hugs that are going to be happening after this!
- Create your own special or cosy and personal space that you try to have time in at least once a week: be it a wintry walk in your favourite place (Government guidelines permitting!), or explore your local area on your daily walk – you don’t know what new things you notice that you’d never before appreciated; lighting candles, curling up under a blanket with a good book and a glass of wine or hot chocolate.
- Doing an enjoyable activity releases endorphins into your bloodstream which are your ‘happy hormones’ and leave you feeling uplifted and re-energised. I know these are a little more restricted at this time so we need to get a bit more creative with our ideas! If you aren’t able to get out, there are some good options for a fun walking workout at home here. Or if a gentle, restorative yoga session feels more nurturing then this could be a better option for you.
- Scrap the diet. I don’t believe in the ‘D’ word. It’s not about depriving yourself but eating a healthy, balanced diet where you are eating plenty – just plenty of the right foods. I love quick and easy recipes for warming and nourishing foods during winter – soups, stews, loads of root vegetables, with a few treats thrown in too. This is not the time or the year to be depriving yourself. Confession time: I eat chocolate every day!
- My personal favourite? I do love a bit of sparkle – it’s amazing how a few fairy lights around the place can make your home a cosier and more inviting place to spend time in. And one of the reasons why I’m keeping my Christmas tree up until February this year (after all, the Queen does and if it’s good enough for her…). We all need a little light in the darkness.
- Ask for help if you need it – I’m always here if you need a sounding board or non-judgemental advice.
We will emerge into a brighter spring. Which will come. And in the meantime let’s work on getting through the temporary season of winter and creating light and wellness wherever we can!