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3 Simple Mental Health Strategies for the Winter Months

Winter days often roll out like the rest of the year, a mix of good and difficult times, positive and challenging experiences, moments of motivation and moments of relaxation. However, what can make the experience of winter more difficult for our mental and emotional health is the expectation or anticipation we tend to hold around the holidays, the physical experience of cold temperatures and additional dark hours, along with the added busyness, socializing, changes to routine, etc.

So, because we know that these days can be an extra challenge to our mental and emotional health, below are some activities that can help give us little extra care and attention as needed.

Your Mind as a Snowglobe

This one is really beautiful and a nice compliment to the season. Envision your mind as a snowglobe. When shaken, everything is swirling around and it is difficult to clearly see the scene inside. Remind yourself that the swirling will settle down more quickly if you do. Still yourself and, in your mind’s eye, pick out one snowflake and watch as it slows and eventually settles on the ground. Do this as many times as it takes to feel more calm. Additionally, remember that a busy, snowy season is just that, only a season. The below video is a beautiful visual of how things will always change with time.

Morning Sunshine

It can be so much harder to get outside and get the vitamin D we need for our best physical, mental, and emotional health during the winter months. There is some incredible research highlighting the importance of exposing ourselves to morning sunshine first thing when we wake up, in order to get our circadian rhythm, hormones related to mood and sleep, etc. moving in the right pattern and direction. If you can, throw a big coat or blanket over your pajamas and get a few minutes or, even if you are not outside, drink your coffee in front of a window, looking outside. If you are interested in more of this information about morning light, check out this video from Stanford professor, Dr. Andrew Huberman.

Embrace the Dark Hours

Did you know we spend about 1/3 of the year in standard time? It’s those days when it’s dark before 5pm and all the funny memes repeat again. While the days of longer and earlier darkness can be difficult, it can help to plan for them and to see them as an invitation, rather than a burden. While so much of our lives are often busy and pressured to be productive, the winter months offer an invitation to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to read, to watch movies and wrap yourself in something soft and drink something warm. Feeling as though we have planned for and are embracing the extra darkness rather than fighting against it helps our brains and our emotions feel better and in more control.

Winter can be difficult for many reasons and, of course, the experience of winter blues or seasonal affective disorder is very real. The strategies above can be helpful but, if you are still struggling more than you would like, please reach out for help and remember that this season is temporary. Spring is coming!

Published December 12, 2023 by Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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