As sad as it is to say goodbye to long summer evenings, there can be a sense of excitement when Autumn arrives; the colour of the leaves, cold, crisp mornings and all of the lovely things that come with the autumn and winter months.
Unfortunately, as we get older, keeping well through the winter can become challenging. This comes down to a number of things such as health problems associated with ageing, loneliness and feeling run down due to a change in weather. Some of us are also prone to experiencing feelings of depression during this time. But not to worry, this is perfectly normal and there are lots of ways to help improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Now, let’s look at some easy steps you can take to help keep happy and healthy through winter.
Eating lots of nutritious foods can help with your energy levels, allowing you to be more active. If you’re wondering how to get started with eating well, the NHS has provided this list of 8 Tips for Healthy Eating.
Maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t just affect our physical health, the food we eat can also affect our mood. If you want to maintain a spring in your step throughout winter, consider looking into how to improve your gut health.
If you’re ready to get cooking, here are some cheap and healthy recipes from BBC Good Food. If you’re not big into cooking or you find it hard to keep on top of your 5-a-day, you could try making some nutritious "superfood" smoothies to enjoy between meals.
Taking care of your immune system
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help keep your immune system strong. This is important if you want to help avoid falling ill during cold and flu season. You should aim to get the nutrients and vitamins you need through a healthy diet but if you’re finding yourself feeling lethargic or run down, you could consider adding supplements to your daily routine.
Vitamins and supplements can give your immune system a boost as the weather changes. Holland & Barrett offer a wide range of immune support supplements which you can order online. If you want to begin taking supplements, you should speak to your GP for more information.
Keeping physically fit
Although it’s chilly in winter, it’s nice to wrap up in some warm clothes and take a walk on a crisp, cold day. There’s something about a clear blue sky on a winter morning that feels refreshing. If you’d rather stay inside due to current circumstances, then staying physically active each day can be difficult. Here are some helpful resources for exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home:
- The NHS physical activity guidelines for older adults
- Age UK’s guide to simple exercises for inactive adults
- 5 best online exercise videos for over 60s self-isolating
Physical activity is thought to help protect against diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. It’s also associated with positive mental health and a higher quality of life. In fact, exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
It’s just as important to look after your mind as it is your body. When our mental wellbeing is neglected, it could lead to depression which can have negative effects on our physical health.
Let’s talk about SAD
Cold, long days can bring even the jolliest person down and what’s more is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real issue for many people. SAD affects around 1 in 15 people and shares similar characteristics with depression. According to the NHS, common symptoms include:
- persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feeling irritable
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- low self-esteem
If you feel that you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can speak to your GP about your options. The NHS recommend that you try to improve your symptoms by getting as much natural light as possible, making your home and work environment as light and airy as possible, sit near windows when indoors, get plenty of exercise, eat a healthy balanced diet and practice stress management by taking time to yourself to recuperate.
Here are some other ways in which you can help to improve your mental health in winter.
How to help beat the winter blues
Time for an autumn clean
We’ve all done our share of spring cleaning but an autumn clean can do just as much good. You’ve probably heard the expression “clean house, clean mind”. Well, there is some truth in it. There really is no better feeling than sitting down to relax knowing your home is spotless.
Getting rid of clutter and cleaning every nook and cranny in the house is the first step to making your home nice and cosy. If you’re lacking the motivation to get started, why not watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix first? It could give you the inspiration you need.
Creating a cosy environment on a budget
With the ongoing coronavirus situation, many of us have accepted that we’ll probably be spending a lot more time at home - particularly in autumn and winter. This means there’s more reason to spend a little time making your home a welcoming, relaxing environment.
Once you’ve got your home spick and span, it’s time to stock up on some cosy winter essentials. Some key items include: candles, comfy blankets, a new diffuser, some good books, a nice warm housecoat and lots of your favourite tea bags.
Here are some tips for doing cosy on a budget:
- Shop around online for items like blankets, cushions, slippers and whatever else you might need. It’s easy to compare prices on sites like Littlewoods who, for instance, have a wide range of dressing gowns as well as items for your home and garden.
- Check local charity shops for books, you could find yourself coming home with 5 books for just £5.
- If you want to find affordable candles, most pound shops sell large candles with wintery scents (like apple and cinnamon) for around £5. These bigger candles tend to last weeks, if not months.
You don’t have to go overboard to make your house a cosy haven. It just takes a few small touches here and there.
The importance of Hygge
Hygge (pronounced hyoo-ga) is a Danish concept used to help the Danes get through the many cold, long dark winter days. It combines the act of mindfulness (living in the moment and appreciating the little things) with small daily rituals and practices that make things extra cosy. Hygge is a big part of the Danish lifestyle and it could very well be the reason why Denmark is often cited as one of the world’s happiest countries despite their exceptionally miserable winters.
If you’ve appreciated the feeling of tucking into a nice hot stew when it’s raining outside, you’ve experienced Hygge. Likewise, if you’ve curled up on the couch with a book, a cup of tea on a chilly January evening and felt a moment of cosy bliss, then you’ve also experienced Hygge. So this winter, if you’re inside your nice warm home with the kettle on as it rains outside, stop and take a moment to appreciate it. You might notice a positive effect on your mood the more you do this. In fact, there are several physical and mental benefits that come with practising Hygge.
Relaxing winter activities for you to try
It’s nice to take time to do some seasonal activities. Here are some ideas for activities you can do to keep busy and have some fun despite the cold!
Baking is a great way to relax, choose a recipe you like the look of, put on your favourite music or pop the radio on and take your time with making something delicious. Or, if you have grandchildren, baking could be a fun way to spend time together.
Stuck for inspiration?
Make nature art with your grandchildren
If you have a garden where your children can collect leaves and bits and pieces to do arts and crafts then brilliant, if not you could go on a nature walk with them to collect some leaves and other items to use. If you would rather stay indoors, then ask them to bring some things with them when visiting.
Depending on the age of the children there are two activities you can do with leaves and branches:
Make an autumn wreath: here is a video tutorial on how to make a wreath using supplies found in nature and here is a video tutorial for a wreath made using artificial items. You can pick up these items in an art supply shop, a pound shop or online.
Leaf painting is another fun activity for kids and all it takes is paper, paint, a spoon, washing up sponges and leaves. Try out this easy video tutorial for clear instructions on how to make leaf prints.
Make mulled wine or mulled cider
Hot mulled wine or cider could be the perfect way to warm up and wind down after a long day. Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine recipe is simple and easy to follow. If you’re not a fan of red wine, you might enjoy a hot mulled cider instead.
Just remember to keep your recommended alcohol consumption units in mind, especially as we enter the festive season.
Reading is another pastime that can be enjoyed alone or with your grandchildren (depending on their age). The Book Depository is an excellent place to source new and used books at an affordable price. Reading is relaxing and reading for pleasure comes with many surprising benefits. You can even look for books that can be enjoyed with your grandchildren.
Checking in with yourself
The most important thing to remember is to be aware of how you’re feeling as the days get longer and colder. Check-in with yourself. If you are in a bit of a slump, have a think about what you could do to improve the situation. Are you feeling tired and run down? Adjust your shopping list to include more healthy foods. Feeling lonely? Pick up the phone and give a friend or family member a call. Feeling down? Plan some activities for the week or pick up some supplies to get your house in order. It’s about identifying the problem and finding a solution that works for you.