After a very long Brisbane summer, Winter has finally arrived and the temptation to go into hibernation increases as the mornings get colder and the days get shorter. Many people experience a bit of a cold snap slump during Winter, but perhaps if we continued all of our gloriously healthy Summer habits, we could avoid the Winter blues…
Diet, sleep and exercise; the pyramid of mood affecters, are the three things we quite quickly modify when the Winter months kick in. Salads are subbed for heart-warming casseroles and the snooze button is a temptation too hard to resist as slippers replace sneakers.
Here are a few smart ways we can continue healthy habits throughout Winter to keep those happy hormone firing.
True to the old saying; ‘You are what you eat’, our diet has an incredible impact on our mind, body and soul. There are strong links between poor diet and mental health and part of this can be due to the vicious cycle of guilt, weight gain and self-shaming. But it’s not just about what you eat but also about how you eat it. Enjoy your food, think about the connection you have with it, where it came from and how it is going to nourish your body. Eat distraction free, turn off your phone, TV or other distractions that you can control and try to focus on the taste, smell and feel of the food as you eat it. It’s all too easy to snuggle up in front of the TV with a blanket and eat Winter comfort food but this is not helpful in the long run.
It’s important to be aware of your physical cues vs emotional cues when it comes to eating. In short, eat when you are hungry not when you are tired, emotional or have ‘3:30itis’. Fulfil your emotional needs with something other than food, this might be a walk, a chat to a friend or something you consider personally indulgent.
It’s normal to feel sleepier and need a little bit more shut eye in the Winter month and this is due to your circadian rhythm which regulates your body clock. It is however, important not to oversleep during the colder months. Try to focus on getting better sleep rather than getting more sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, seeking help is a must. Some basic sleep hygiene tips include, keeping your evenings technology free (really- yes really), avoid alcohol within a few hours of bed and reduce caffeine after 2pm. Although it is important to exercise and in fact it can improve sleep quality, some research suggests avoiding it within 3 hours of bedtime.
Research and literature across the world concur that exercise is one of the key components to maintaining your health and wellbeing and this doesn’t change in Winter. Brisbane Winter is pretty mild so outdoor exercise is still very achievable without the risk of frost bite! In fact, the conditions are much better for outdoor exercise than the warmer months and so walks or runs can even be extended. Rather than battle with your morning alarm clock and the frosty temps, consider a lunch time stroll or a social exercise session on the weekend instead. Incorporating 30 minutes into your day is important for physical and mental health, whether it be incidental exercise or a lounge room work out, maintaining regular exercise should remain a Winter priority.
Whether its summer, autumn, winter or spring, how you feel inside is real and it’s important not to sweep it under the carpet and hope your mood improves. Enlisting the help of a psychologist or mental health professionals can help people who are feeling depressed to assess the thinking patterns that may cause negative thoughts and behaviours.
So, for those of you who do experience a yearly cold snap slump, or if you have been struggling with prolonged depressed mood, seeking professional help is the best way forward.