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How do you feel about winter? Do you endure it and wish it over as soon as possible? Or do you relish the opportunity to hunker down in comfy clothes, snuggly blankets and get cozy?
Whatever your feelings about winter, there’s no getting around the fact that it arrives every year!
Self-care is vital all year round, but especially so in winter. The dropping temperatures and darker days can have a negative impact on both physical and mental wellbeing, so it’s important that you have a self-care routine that supports you during the colder months.
As the seasons change, the type of self-care activities that you practice may need to change too. The aim of self-care during winter is to ensure that you don’t just get by, but that you thrive. So that as the darker days of winter make way to the lighter days of spring you can look forward with anticipation, but also look back with affection and satisfaction on a winter of warmth, growth, and time well spent.
What is self-care
So what do I mean when I refer to self-care? Indulging in a giant-sized block of chocolate while Netflix binging all weekend? No. Tempting as that may be…
Self-care is doing things that protect, maintain and promote your health and wellbeing.
- staying fit and healthy
- being aware of what depletes you and taking steps to replenish your mental and physical health
- treating yourself as kindly as you would treat others
The best way of taking care of your physical and mental health is to eat nutritious food, get restorative sleep, exercise regularly and consistently do activities that make you feel good.
What kind of activities?
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for self-care.
The key to successful self-care is recognising (and being honest with yourself about) what you need. What do you need to do to stay fit and healthy? What replenishes you, and what energises you?
Sometimes you need to get active.
Moving your body will make you feel happier – your brain will release dopamine which will make you feel good! Not only that, getting active will energise you, build your confidence, and help you sleep better.
Sometimes you need to slow down.
Take some time to let your body and mind recharge and recover from the constant juggling, ticking off to-dos and general fast pace of life.
Sometimes you need the company of others.
Friendships are so important in protecting and maintaining mental health. Not only are friends fun to be with, but they’ll also help you see things in perspective and keep you grounded.
Sometimes you need to be on your own.
If you’re an introvert like me, you’ll know that you need to spend time alone in order to replenish your energy. Make sure you get that time.
Sometimes you need to be creative
Tackling a creative project or activity is so beneficial. Getting into a state of ‘flow’ where you are completely immersed in what you are doing will boost your productivity, creativity and happiness.
Sometimes you need to get organized.
Excess clutter and disorganized spaces can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. And clutter isn’t always just physical stuff. It’s also those nagging ‘should-dos’ or ‘need-to-remembers’ at the back of your mind.
When you tackle an organization project (no matter how small) you’ll feel accomplished and happier.
Why is winter self-care different?
Winter is a time when our mood can take a dip.
There are ways we can lift our mood – creating a self-care routine and following it consistently will certainly help.
[Sidenote: There are a small number of people who are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a more debilitating condition than general winter blues. If you suspect you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, then it’s important to consult a medical professional for advice and treatment.]
During winter, the weather makes less fun to get outside as often, so you may need to alter your normal self-care routine to reflect the cooler, rainier weather, and the darker mornings and evenings.
Plus, there always seems to be more bugs and viruses around during winter, making it even more important to maintain a healthy immune system. Taking the extra time to slow down and rest during winter is important not only to prevent exhaustion and burnout but also to let your body fight any nasties it comes across.
Whatever the season though, it’s important to consistently and regularly practice self-care activities that make you feel good.
Take a look at these winter self-care ideas, and choose the ones that are right for you.
15 Winter Self-care Ideas
1. Spend time outside
Getting outside may be the last thing you feel like doing on a cold, wintery day, but during winter it’s more important than ever to get as much natural light as possible.
I love that Scandinavian saying…”there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”. So wrap up warm, and get out of the office or house at lunchtime and go for a walk. Walk around the neighbourhood, or take a detour through a local park.
Try a longer walk or hike on the weekend. Take a flask of soup or a hot drink with you to help keep you warm and keep spirits up!
2. Observe the beauty of nature
Beauty can come in many guises, and while winter may not seem as showy as spring or summer, I believe that winter can provide just as much natural beauty as the other seasons.
Watch how the frost sparkles. Or the way the snowflakes swirl. Notice the silhouettes the bare tree branches make or the way the mist shrouds the landscape. Take notice of the changes happening in nature and snap a photo or two to capture the moment.
3. Be a tourist in your town
Winter is a great time to get out and about in your town. The quieter streets make it easier to just meander and explore. Perhaps you might discover something new or unusual.
If you live in a town visited by a lot of tourists in the summer (here in Edinburgh the population swells to twice its normal size during the summer festival season) the winter provides a great respite from crowds. It’s much more pleasant to wander and explore. It’s easier to find a table in restaurants and cafes, and there may even be reduced entry fees to some attractions.
You never know what you’ll find. A little known museum or gallery? Or perhaps a new cafe, bar or pub.
4. Find a fireplace
There is nothing quite like a fireplace for generating cozy feelings of wellbeing!
If you don’t have a fireplace of your own, seek out a restaurant, cafe or pub that has one and while away some time reading, relaxing, or chatting with friends.
5. Watch a movie
Make a date with yourself, or some friends and go out to see a movie.
If you’ve never been to see a movie by yourself, try it. I can confirm it’s great fun! Stock up on snacks, and lose yourself in a different world for a few hours.
What I love about going to a movie theatre is the complete immersion in the experience. The darkness. And how (most of the time) people put their phones away, stop chatting, and just sit and watch the movie, distraction free.
Of course, it can be just as nice to download or stream a movie or series you’ve been wanting to watch at home. Make popcorn, put your phone out of reach, and settle in.
Be sure to do this with intention though. If your plan is to spend the whole day binging on your favourite box-set, that’s fine. However, if, all of a sudden it’s the end of the day and your to-do list is undone and you realise that you’ve just spent the last 5 hours in front of the TV you may not feel so good. That’s the opposite of self-care!
6. Read (or listen to) a book
Make a start on that book that you’ve been meaning to get to. Need something new to read? Visit your local library and explore the shelves.
Or for a change, try listening to an audio book. So many books are available in audio format now. It’s great to listen while you’re commuting, exercising or doing housework. Or even while you’re just relaxing.
7. Listen to a podcast
For me, listening to podcasts is just as much fun as reading. I love that feeling of anticipation when my podcast app tells me there’s a new episode available of my current favourite series. I can’t wait to put my earbuds in to listen!
8. Revisit a hobby, or try a new one
Winter is the perfect time to revisit the creative hobby you didn’t get much time for during the warmer months. Or maybe even had given up on.
It’s also a great time to take up a new hobby. Have you always wanted to try knitting? Or calligraphy? Why not take some lessons or enrol in a class? Love singing, why not join a choir?
9. Get creative in the kitchen
Bake a cake, a batch of cookies, or another favourite treat, and invite friends over for tea or coffee to share.
Or you could take some home baking over to your neighbour as a little random act if kindness.
Winter is the perfect time to get the crockpot out from the back of the cupboard and try some new recipes. Use winter vegetables to create a hearty winter soup. Or make a pot of warming chilli.
10. Bask in light
Winter is darker than any other season, there’s no getting away from it. So create a cozy atmosphere by lighting some candles or put up some fairy lights and enjoy the warm glow.
11. Try a new hot drink
Winter and hot drinks go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why not try a different type of tea, coffee or hot chocolate? You could try making your own blend or infusion. Look up some recipes or try creating your own.
12. Drink water
While drinking lots of tea, coffee and hot chocolate is super-cozy, don’t forget to drink plenty of regular water too!
Staying hydrated is crucial to the health of every part of your body. It’ll boost your immune system, boost your brainpower, reduce fatigue, and regulate body temperature.
The harsher weather outdoors, along with artificial heating indoors, can make easy to become dehydrated. To combat dehydration carry a refillable water bottle with you and be sure to drink from it regularly. I keep a glass of water on my kitchen counter and take a drink from it every time I pass by.
Herbal teas and infusions are another way to get more water (and they’re lovely and warming too!)
Stretching is a great way to get your body moving, especially if you can’t get outside due to particularly nasty weather.
If you like yoga, or want to give it a try, check out my favourite yoga YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. Here are 4 great routines from Adriene which are perfect for winter:
i. Cozy Yoga
ii. Yoga for the Winter Blues
iii. Yoga for a Rainy Day
iv. Yoga for When You Are Sick
14. Plan a trip
Having something to look forward to is a great way to feel positive about the future as well as lift your spirits. You could plan a day trip, a weekend away, or your summer vacation.
Think about when you’d like to go. Do you want to go on your own or take someone? What would you do there? Which restaurants to you want to try? What attractions would you like to see?
15. Write down one good thing a day
Gratitude has been hailed as one of the most universally effective mindset boosters and happiness enhancers on the planet. – Jonathan Fields
You may not think about gratitude as a self-care practice, but the science is clear. Over the years gratitude has been heavily researched and validated. Gratitude is good for you!
Find out more about how gratitude can boost your wellbeing.
So there you go – 15 winter self-care activities that will help you thrive during the colder months.
Which ones will you try?
Are there any winter self-care activities you love that I’ve missed? Let me know.