Winter can be hard to enjoy. Maybe you tend to repeat the same pattern as me: you’re full of energy in the spring and summer, expect to stay at the same level of activity in the colder months but end up hibernating in bed. I rarely even remember what I did in November, December or January. Winter is supposed to be a season of rest and regeneration, but barely surviving doesn’t have much in common with recovery. However, we don’t have to go through this cycle every year. You can do a few things to enjoy winter a little more. If you’re having a really hard time, remember that the Wellbeing Services are here for you.
Make sure you’re warm.
This could be a tricky one in the midst of the cost of living crisis. To keep yourself warm at home and not break the bank, check out Phoebe’s blog on saving energy in winter.
Another thing that will help you to stay warm and feel better is eating warm meals: choose porridge over granola on yoghurt (bonus point for adding warming cinnamon), make use of the microwaves available on campus to re-heat your lunch, and maybe even cook some soup.
Wear layers and pay attention to the quality of your winter clothing. A thin down jacket will keep you warm much better than the thickest polyester puffer coat. A merino wool sweater under a hoodie will provide a layer of comfort that not many other pieces of clothing can. If you’re living a vegan lifestyle or are allergic to wool, it’s a good idea to buy heavy or textured clothing and wear a few more layers. Don’t forget your hat, scarf and gloves! Sure, buying special winter clothes can be expensive. Still, many of these things are easy to find in charity shops, on Depop or Vinted (look out for our guide to charity shops in Leeds in January), and they will serve you for much longer than regular chain-store clothes, so they’re worth the investment. For extra warmth, you could get hand-warmers like these rechargeable ones.
Spend time outdoors
Charge your hand warmers! We’re going out! I know it’s cold and grey but being outdoors has many benefits. Getting enough light, especially within 30mins after waking up, regulates your circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll be more awake during the day and sleep better at night. Moreover, if you feel like your mood is lower in autumn and winter, getting as much sunlight as possible can help boost your mood. We don’t know the cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but many link it with decreased access to light. There are also many others benefits to spending time outdoors. And the good news: we gain 15mins of daylight every week in January, which means that by the first week of February, it’ll be light past 5 o’clock.
Plan exciting things
Make time in your schedule for events and activities that excite you and that you enjoy doing. If you can schedule a few in advance, that’s even better. This way, you’ve got something to look forward to in the dark, cold months. If possible, plan things to do with your friends and family for added accountability. If winter is hard for you, doing things on your own (or doing things in general) can be difficult, but I promise you will feel better after spending some time doing something you like with people you care about.
Allow yourself to slow down
I know it’s easier said than done with the exam period and assessments hanging over your head. Yet, I’m sure you can find ways to slow down. Or maybe your life is slower in winter, but you don’t allow yourself to appreciate it, feel unproductive, guilty, annoyed and so on. But slowing down after the intense summer is necessary and beneficial: our bodies and minds need to recover. It’s easy to dismiss this need in our productivity culture, but in reality, you can’t expect to give your 100% all the time. So take it slow: maybe let yourself sleep a little more than usual, focus on priorities, leave less important things for later, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Slowing down doesn’t mean not being active. Moving your body is crucial for your mental and physical health. Perhaps you don’t want to do HIIT workouts if it’s not already part of your routine, but some gentle exercise is always beneficial. It’s important to find something you like (or at least you don’t hate), so if you haven’t found your fitness routine yet or want to switch things up, there are many options to explore: you can join a society, sign up for various classes at the gym or try some workouts on YouTube. I cannot stress enough how life-changing exercising can be, but Harvard did it for me.
Possibly one of the most radical acts of self-care in the 21st century. In contact with modern-day technology, our brain is bombarded with stimuli that it cannot process, so it’s easy to imagine that scrolling TikTok doesn’t have too much to do with actual relaxation. I’m sure you know that. You don’t have to spend whole days offline, though. Use a small-step method — maybe you’ll promise yourself to have offline mornings or to switch off your phone after 10 pm and read instead?