Emotional wellness is worth paying attention to any time of year but in the depths of winter, it can be harder to keep up with your mental health and self-care. As we come down from the busy holiday season and from spending time with loved ones and try to get ourselves on track for the new year, consider these mental health and wellness tips:
· Start a journal/write it out. Winter is meant to be a time of introspection and reflection. Writing or journaling is an excellent way to get back in touch with yourself and process some of the things you may be feeling or thinking. Writing is an excellent indoor activity that allows you to free yourself of inhibitions and clear your mind so you can refocus on what matters. A tip: try a “free write” exercise. A free writing exercise is one where you set a timer, say 10 or 15 minutes, and write everything that comes to mind even if you think it doesn’t make sense. If you’re struggling to think about what to write, it’s okay to write random combinations of letters or characters until the next thought comes along. You can either keep it for later or once you’re done crumple it up and put it in the trash. There are no rules or limits to what you can say or write in freewriting exercises. Here is a great resource with more tips on freewriting.
· Practice mindfulness and meditation. Sometimes, we have to just let ourselves be. Meditation is one way to help you refocus your intentions and essentially take a break from your own mind by focusing on breathing techniques and stillness. It has been shown to decrease depression boost focus and concentration and help alleviate stress. Similarly, mindfulness helps you to slow down, live in the moment, and be intensely aware of what you’re doing without interpretation or judgment. As little as 5 or 10 minutes of meditation and mindfulness can help improve mood, focus, and energy.
· Bundle up and get outside. Aside from being really good for your physical health, getting outside for even short bursts of 15-20 minutes can do wonders for your mood and mental health. It can help boost your energy, and get you much-needed sunshine to prevent seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues, and research has proven that getting out in nature improves cognition, happiness, and a sense of connection to the natural world.
· Stay connected with friends, family, and loved ones. Humans are social creatures. During the winter, there are usually fewer social events and get-togethers than there are in the warmer, more mild months. Call, text or video chat with a friend or loved one periodically, volunteer with a cause you care about, or find or create a group of folks who enjoy some of the same hobbies or interests you do and make those connections. You never know whom you will meet! One great resource for finding groups or clubs is Meetup which has groups for every interest or hobby you can think of, and many of them are in your local area.