7 ways to look after your mental health this winter

To help you fight the January blues, here are seven ways to look after your mental health and care for yourself this month.

This article is about taking care of your mental health during winter. The photo is of a coffee table with french press and flowers.
Image: Kris Atomic on Unsplash

While winter in general can be hard on people’s mental health, the third Monday in January marks Blue Monday, which is generally recognised as the most depressing day of the year.

January is a difficult month. A combination of the holiday season being behind us and having to return to work during the cold, dark weather is uncomfortable enough. On top of that, many of us are navigating personal challenges and feeling the impact of injustices worldwide.

While no data asserts that Blue Monday is significantly more difficult than any other Monday in January, the term was coined twenty years ago, in 2004, when a Sky Travel ad agency worked with psychologist Cliff Arnall to better understand the January blues. Their goal wasn’t exactly altruistic since they were trying to identify the best time of the year to market warm holiday packages, but the term became widely known.

While it’s never a bad idea to book a sun holiday, Blue Monday is also an opportunity to engage in supportive conversations about mental health. Here are seven ways to look after your mental health and care for yourself this month.

Move your body

This article is about taking care of your mental health in winter. The image shows a group of runners stand side-by-side and cheer for the Dublin 5K Pride Run.

Whether it’s a short lunch break walk or solo dance party in your gaff, adding some extra movement into your routine can feel good. It’s still winter and we don’t need to over-exert ourselves by going for a run or lifting heavy weights at the gym, but any gentle movement can help.

Find some sun

Bisexual Pride

While it may be difficult to spend much time outside during the precious hours of natural sunlight, sitting by a window or in front of a SAD lamp can be beneficial. To help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), SAD lamps or light therapy lamps can replace some of the sunlight we’d naturally see during the summer months.

Avoid alcohol

bar with stools in dark lighting with alcohol on shelves behind bar

While it may be tempting to indulge in a hot whiskey during these cold evenings, alcohol is a depressant so it’s common to feel more down after drinking. Instead, consider checking out a sober space or joining a community like Babes Without Beers who regularly host alcohol-free Meet-Ups.

Buy yourself flowers

This article is about taking care of your mental health in winter. The image shows a bouquet of flowers from a Pride collection that will donate proceeds to BeLonG To.

While it’s normal to spend extra hours inside during these cold winter months, looking at the same four walls especially after the holiday decorations are taken down can make the space feel empty. Take a note from Miley Cyrus, and buy yourself flowers. Picking up a bouquet, a new plant, or a fun piece of art can add a burst of colour and life to your living space.

Take a cold shower

master bathroom

Cold therapy is the practice of using cold water to reduce pain, boost immune systems and fight depression symptoms. Whether that means going for a sea swim or standing under cold water in the shower, many people rave about the effects of cold water therapy.

It may seem intimidating at first, but even a few seconds can make a big difference. Once our bodies adapt to the cold temperature, expect a surge of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins to flood the body with “feel good” hormones.

Go somewhere new

Two baristas standing in a coffee shop with rainbow decor. This piece is forecasting the closure of LGBTQ+ venues.

Whether it’s trying a new coffee shop or browsing a library or bookshop, a simple change in environment can be a mood lifter. Especially if you work from home, look for an opportunity to change your routine and go somewhere new for a few hours.

Try therapy

A group of people stand arm in arm as BeLonG To launches a new therapy service.

If you’re feeling unmotivated by every option on this list, that’s completely understandable. While going for a walk or taking a cold shower can help shake off some winter blues, these practices are not a complete cure for depression or other mental health issues.

If you are experiencing depression symptoms, it’s okay to ask for support. Talk therapy and medication options are available, and it can be incredibly helpful to work with a counsellor or therapist to figure out what works best for you.

Even if you are lucky enough not to experience winter blues, Blue Monday is an excellent time to address the pervasive stigmas that still surround mental health in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. It’s a good opportunity to show up for your friends and loved ones who may be having a hard time.

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