Are you feeling that you have a little less spring in your step and that your bed feels that little bit more difficult to crawl out of in the morning? Are you feeling the urge to eat more comfort food when you watch the TV? These are behaviours that are recognised to occur more during the winter months, with the cold weather making our body crave more calories to keep us warm and less daylight having an impact on our body’s internal clock, serotonin, and melatonin levels. With ‘Blue Monday’ around the corner on the 17th January, what can we do to improve our well-being during these Winter months?
There is no surprise that exercise is one of the main ways to enhance our well-being. The good news is that as strong, determined women who love to run, we are already in a good position to combat this dip in mood during the Winter months. We are great at setting goals to get our medal, booking onto those running events to stay motivated and getting outdoors in the fresh air to increase our Vitamin D and Serotonin. However, we can always do with some extra tips to supercharge our well-being, as we want 2022 to be the best year yet!
How we frame exercise, and our self-talk is key, with the best results occurring when we can recognise the value associated with our run, such as increasing our level of health and fitness and/or connecting with nature. This is far more beneficial to our well-being when compared to telling ourselves we “should” and “must” do a run today, which can increase our level of stress. The Department of Health (2011) recommends that adults should participate in daily exercise of moderate intensity for 2.5 hours a week, which would be the equivalent to exercising five times a week for 30 minutes a day. It can be helpful to mix it up a bit and include activities such as sports, cycling and swimming in addition to our empowering runs.
Have fun and laugh more
As children we laugh a lot every day, but we tend to be more serious as adults. Laughter is a fantastic way to relieve tension and stress and can be beneficial for up to 45 minutes after we laugh. It can decrease our stress hormones and increase endorphins both associated with enhanced well-being.
Try and think of ways that you can incorporate laughter into your day. This could be starting your day with your favourite song and dancing to it (my personal favourite for increasing my positive energy levels), watching comedy on the TV, talking to a friend, or purposefully making yourself laugh for 30 seconds (maybe best when you are alone!). How we start our day off can have a big impact on how we feel and experience the rest of our day, as our mind will seek out aspects that confirm our state of mind. This means that if we start off having fun, we set ourselves up for a better day ahead.
Learn a new skill or find a new hobby
We all experience times when we are caught in a cycle, such as, go to work, cook the dinner, look after the children, and go to bed on repeat. Whilst this is to some extent “normal life,” if we do not have some time away from work and responsibility in our routine, we can become overwhelmed and tired. We can then beat ourselves up by knowing things need to change but tell ourselves that we haven’t got the time to do this.
Starting to learn a new skill or new hobby can provide a sense of enjoyment whilst helping us to recharge our batteries. This can make us more productive in the long run and can make us feel like we are developing personally, whilst allowing us to have a nice break from work. New hobbies and skills have been associated with a boost in confidence, increased connection with others and a greater sense of purpose (NHS, 2021). For those of us who may feel under-stimulated or that life is feeling a little underwhelming, hobbies or a new skill can make us to feel excited and provide a new challenge that can inject some fun into our week.
We all have times where we feel our mind is very busy and we are rushing around without feeling like we are getting anywhere fast. This is when our stress levels are likely to spike without us even realising it, which can have a detrimental impact on our well-being and enjoyment. A way to start reducing that inner chatter, externalise those thoughts and start to see the patterns between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour is to add journaling into our daily routine. Benefits associated with journaling include enhancing mindfulness and actively engaging in the present moment, reducing stress through processing difficulties in a structured way and helping us to identify, gain clarity and process our emotions.
To start the process of journaling in can be helpful to set aside a certain time each day and find a quiet and comfortable space where you will not be disturbed. Start with a small amount of time each day as consistency, rather than length of time is important. There is no firm rule of what to include in your journaling but areas that you could start with could be; what is bothering you, something you want to work towards as a future goal or things you are grateful for. Whilst you are writing, play close attention to what emotions are showing up, what patterns you recognise and if there is anything you can learn and grow from this experience.
The important thing for our well-being moving forward in 2022, is to recognise that this is not perceived as self-indulgent, but as a necessity for us to remain at our best and get the most out of life. You are so worth it!!