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Nicky Marshall

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Paving the way to positivity: Why winter is the best time to change your habits

Staying light in the darker months can be difficult, but changes, challenges and kindness are key to maintaining wellbeing this winter.

With the days getting longer and colder, it can be difficult to remain positive but by prioritising self-care and wellbeing you can stay uplifted in the winter months. This article contains tips and tricks for staying positive in minus temperatures that you can adopt yourself or share with your colleagues.

Keeping it light

We know that in winter it’s dark. A lot. We need natural daylight to regulate our circadian rhythms – the system that helps us differentiate between being active and resting. If you can, get outside in the middle of the day for at least 10 minutes. Try to mentally acknowledge the sunrise and sunset, even if you can’t see them. Candlelight, twinkly lights and the lights on a Christmas tree will also improve our mood. If we can’t jet off somewhere sunny, we need a re-frame – embrace fluffy jumpers, blankets and nights in with friends and family. We will feel happier and will make lots of memories in the process. Perhaps take up a new craft like knitting (it’s enjoying a renaissance right now!) or use the time indoors to learn something new. The Danish concept of hygge is about finding comfort, pleasure and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cosy atmosphere or the feeling of friendship. I must admit that my newly purchased fluffy Christmas socks make me smile even as the temperature drops. Speaking of temperature, did you know that it’s important for your health to keep your core temperature above 10 degrees? Heart health, blood pressure, brain performance and circulation are all adversely affected by low temperatures. So, whether you are working from home, commuting or in the office add those extra layers!

Shifting mindset with new habits

Staying active during any season is good for our physical and mental health, but perhaps there are a few adjustments needed when it’s cold: Remember to avoid injuries or strains by taking extra warm-up and cool-down time. Our bodies are naturally looking for rest in the winter, so maybe opt for more yoga and less cardio. The important thing is to listen to your body – it may not be laziness speaking! You may need more encouragement while it’s cold and dark. Maybe adjust your sessions to lunchtime or enlist a buddy to make sure you turn up. If you do crave being inside maybe try an online fitness class or get some home weights – have fun improvising! Remember this can be a great time to change your habits – just because you have always spent winter and Christmas one way doesn’t mean it always needs to be this way. When I realised that to do nothing is also a choice made, I decided to make mine count.
This can be a great time to change your habits – just because you have always spent winter and Christmas one way doesn’t mean it always needs to be this way.
Spending too much time alone? Add some events to your calendar with family or friends, start some new traditions or volunteer. Feeling frazzled? Schedule at least one day a week when you have an empty calendar, perhaps enjoy a lazy breakfast, a cheesy Christmas movie or a good book. Want more energy and health? Add one new nutritious recipe to your repertoire, perhaps a stew full of root vegetables or a creamy soup. Ensure you prioritise your sleep, maybe set an alarm to get you to bed earlier and organise your life so you can add a 15-minute lie-in… it really feels luxurious! Set time aside to get outside, or go for a swim (if you have a sauna too you can pretend you did get away somewhere!). Plan a sunny, exotic holiday – even if you have no intention of ever going. You will get a nice dose of endorphins and your brain can’t tell the difference between real and imaginary so at that moment you could be on a beach in the Seychelles or trekking through a rainforest. Remember we are more likely to do something if we have someone with us – so perhaps set a series of office challenges like a step competition or a lunchtime vision board session.

Out of the darkness comes light

Finally, if you do struggle with this time of year – let someone know. Confide in a friend who will really listen to your struggles. See your GP and rule out health reasons for feeling below par. There are fantastic organisations like the Samaritans who are ready to listen if you feel you need to speak with someone independent of your situation. As always, this season will pass. Soon you will notice that it’s getting lighter by a few minutes a day, those first snowdrops will appear and, before long, it will be time to dust off those flip-flops!

Interested in this topic? Read Workplace hygge: how to embrace it

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Nicky Marshall


Read more from Nicky Marshall

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