As today is World Mental Health Day, we have put together a small guide, including some tips for looking after your mental health this winter. Founder at Menfulness, Matty Lewis, also talks to us about some useful tips for managing through the winter months.
Looking after our mental health is something we should be doing all year round, but it can become increasingly difficult in the winter months. Not only is it darker, colder, and generally less pleasant, it is a time when loneliness can really take hold. We know we are not experts on the matter, but we wanted to provide some tips, based on professional advice, in the hope that it could help with anyone that might be struggling.
According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something that affects at least two million people across the UK, with symptoms including depression, sleep problems and lethargy. There are a number of things that you can do to help yourself, a loved one or a colleague during this time.
Although exercise can often be looked upon as a chore, there are a lot of great health benefits of doing exercise, both mentally and physically. Exercise can be a great tool for boosting your mood and is known to release endorphins that block pain and increase the sensation of pleasure and happiness. As well as these benefits, being active is brilliant for your physical strength too. It can lead to a healthier heart and increased energy levels. In addition to this, being regularly active can also help with those struggling with sleep.
There are many ways to stay active, no matter your ability or time availability. If more strenuous activity feels daunting to you, there are a range of more gentle exercises such as swimming, yoga or walking that you could get involved in. If you don’t want to do this alone, there are a range of group activities you could consider joining, such as group walks and exercise classes.
As the days grow darker and shorter, it can be easy to slip into the trap of staying indoors as much as possible. Fresh air and light are great mood boosters, so trying to continue your time outdoors into the winter months can be helpful. Try and aim for a short walk each day – when you otherwise wouldn’t need to leave the house. Walking outside is a great way to clear the mind and get a change of scenery. This may be particularly important for those who do a lot of working from home and may not otherwise leave the house for several days.
Look after your diet
It is easy to overlook what we eat as we move further into winter, but maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can be very beneficial to our mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, a healthy diet can boost your mood and increase your energy levels. This, combined with getting outside and doing some exercise, can promote better wellbeing and mental health.
One of the most important pieces of advice that is given, particularly by mental health organisations, is to keep talking. If you’re struggling, opening up to someone about what’s on your mind could really help. This could be a family member, friend, colleague or a professional. For those that live alone, this could be crucial through the coming months. If you find it hard to talk about your mental health, consider keeping a diary to track how you feel and how those feelings change over time.
Seek out support if you need it
For some, talking may not enough and they may require extra support. There are many resources out there that are ready and available for those that need it. There are support lines such as Samaritans, who you can contact at any time to talk through how you’re feeling. You could also get in touch with a local community group, where you can meet with people who may be experiencing similar things to you. These groups can be a great platform to share your thoughts and experiences in a safe space.
Our charity partner, Menfulness, is a male mental health charity that provides support groups and, in some cases, counselling through their organisation.
We spoke to Matty Lewis, founder at Menfulness, about some advice for those struggling through the winter period:
"At Menfulness, we recognise that the darker morning and evenings, as well as the cold weather, really exaggerates the feeling of loneliness. We promote being proactive about your mental health all year round but, when those winter months arrive, check out any events out there and make the best of your interests,
“If you feel you struggle with your mental health over winter regardless of what you do, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). You can get things such as SAD Lamps to help with this, but subtle changes like diet and exercise are also great.” He added
“Most importantly, we recommend talking if you're struggling. It's normal not to feel yourself and explaining to a family member or friend might be exactly what you need.”
Although we have provided these tips for looking after your mental health, we want to reiterate that we are not experts and, if you need support, we advise getting in touch with a professional or support group.