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As we approach the shortest day (21st December) and we continue to weather gloomy and cold days, many of us will be facing additional challenges with our mental wellbeing. In fact, the NHS recognises a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder which tends to affect people during winter.

Even if we don’t suffer from SAD, we could all use a little reminder on how to give ourselves the best chance of staying well.

But sometimes, self-help tips can feel like a long to-do list. If you’re already feeling stressed, depressed or anxious, some of these ‘simple’ tips can feel impossible. Do what you can, and if you need extra support, we’re here for you.

In the meantime, consider these tips to maintain your mental health throughout the season.

These tips are based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The five ways were developed by the New Economics Foundation, and they’re based in evidence and research. They are recognised by the NHS.


‘Connect’ is one of the five ways to wellbeing; connecting can help us build a sense of belonging and self-worth.

Mindwell has a list of community events over the period, where you can connect with others in your local community.

If you need a little helping hand this winter, then the Winter Friends program could help. Connecting people with volunteers, Winter Friends is free-to-use and operates in Leeds.

Helping others can also be a great way to feel engaged in your local community as well, so signing up as a helper can also be a great idea (see the ‘give to others’ section below for more on this…)

Keep up with exercise 

The Five Ways to Wellbeing also tells us to keep active.

It’s a lot harder to take yourself out for a walk when the weather isn’t as welcoming or when the nights have drawn in, but exercise is still one of the best things for your mental wellbeing. Even gentle movement is enough to reap the benefits.

The good news is that indoor exercise is more accessible than ever, thanks to free workout apps and YouTube videos. Whether you want to work up a sweat or gently work some tension out of your body, there’s a mood-boosting workout for you.

If you still want to get outside but the dark is putting you off, try to workout in the morning or at lunchtime instead.

Learn new skills

Learning new skills can not only help with a sense of purpose and building self-esteem and confidence, but it can help with one of the other Ways to Wellbeing – Connect. By joining a group in areas such as arts and crafts, a community choir or even bike maintenance, you can both learn new skills and connect with others.

If joining a group feels too much for you at this stage, learning online can also be effective. YouTube has almost infinite options to learn something new, and best of all, it’s free!

Give to Others

Giving to others can create a sense of wellbeing and reward, give both parties a feeling of purpose and self-worth, and also help you connect with others (one of the other ways to wellbeing!) 

‘Giving’ can mean lots of things – for example, checking in with a friend, supporting a neighbour with something like popping to the shop or putting the bins out, or volunteering in your community.

If you are able, it can also mean giving to charity. This year, Leeds Mind’s Winter Appeal is running a raffle where you can win some wonderful prizes while ‘giving’ to others.


Pay attention (mindfulness)

You don’t have to go to a special session to learn about mindfulness for this ‘way to wellbeing’. Mindfulness can be as simple as paying attention when you are walking to the bus stop. By focusing on our footsteps on the pavement, the sounds of traffic, birds or airplanes overhead, and paying attention to what we can see, we’re actually practicing mindfulness.

If you would like to learn more about Mindfulness, there is lots of content about it on YouTube, while Leeds Mindfulness Co-op offers free courses and workshops.


Some bonus ways to winter wellbeing

Maintain your routine

It’s easy to let your regular routine slip when the nights are longer and the days shorter. However, maintaining a consistent schedule is a great way to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Keeping to regular mealtimes is also important for your dietary health, which can also impact your mood.

Your body needs sleep. Making sure you get a full night’s shut-eye is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health, which is another reason to stick to a regular schedule. Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day trains your body when it’s time to switch off, and can make it easier to get a good night of sleep.


Don’t forget to hydrate

The NHS recommends drinking 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day to maintain a healthy body. Any non-alcoholic drink will do, so feel free to get the kettle on – warm drinks are a good idea to keep the chill at bay. Just keep in mind not to drink too much caffeine, as this can have an impact on your ability to sleep. Instead, you could try herbal tea or a cup of hot water.


Making the most of your winter – whatever that looks like for you

Only do what feels right and achievable for you. If you need extra support, we’re here for you.

For more tips and advice on staying happy and healthy throughout the winter months, take a look at the following helpful resources:

This blog was drafted for us by a volunteer, who donates their time and skills to further our cause. A big thanks to our volunteer! For more information about volunteering opportunities, you can visit our volunteering page.