Wellbeing in Autumn and Winter: how to thrive and not just survive

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In the UK, autumn and winter can be tough months to get through. They can be dark, wet, cold and grey, not very cheerful times of the year apart from perhaps Christmas!

For a lot of us, this can manifest as a low mood, craving really carby and stodgy meals and as desire to just want to hibernate. Exercising and eating well can become much more difficult, and of course all of these things can really have a big impact on our health and wellbeing.

In Scandinavian countries, they are used to having really dark, cold winters and have developed ways to get through them, and to not just survive, but to actually thrive.

beautiful-autumn-leaves

 A concept that I’ve become really interested in recently is the Danish word ‘Hygge’ which is pronounced hoo-ga. It’s a word that doesn’t have a direct English equivalent, but a rough translation would be something that is cosy and intimate and a feeling of wellbeing. I think it’s a fascinating concept that we could really do with adopting and taking some tips from the Danes.

Here’s a few ideas of how not to just survive the autumn and winter of the UK, but actually thrive.

Embrace seasonal eating

 When it comes to food, the temptation can be to go for really stodgy, carby meals and not eat very many fruits and vegetables. If you look at eating seasonally, soups and stews can be very comforting, but they can also be full of seasonal vegetables which will boost our health. There are some great fruit and vegetables in season at this time of year such as kale, swede, brussels sprouts (try them roasted or stir fried, life changing!) carrots and beetroot. Butternut squash and pumpkin are definitely my favourites! Including those naturally sweet root veggies and squashes in some of your meals will provide a source of complex carbohydrates which have been proven to support a better mood.
Soups, stews and even curries can be easy to make and will offer you that comfort factor in a healthier package than pastry laden pies, pasta dishes or other heavy meals. Eating seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables can be a great way to support your immune system and general health and wellbeing from the inside out.

Invest in friendships

Something that has been identified by the Happiness Institute in Denmark is that it might actually be the Danish people’s very close social relationships that could be the reason they are some of the happiest people in the world. Danes don’t tend to go out a lot at this time of year, preferring to socialise at each other’s houses, often over long, informal dinners. Why not plan some fun activities with your nearest and dearest? Invite them over for dinner and maybe get them involved in the actual cooking, Scandi style. Creating new traditions with friends and family at this time of year such as a fun Halloween party or a group outing to the local fireworks display, can also be a big mood booster.

winter fun

Create the right environment

 Another thing that’s central to Hygge is creating a cosy, comforting environment that welcomes you home from the dark and cold outside. What are the lighting and soft furnishings like in your house? Just adding a warm glow from a lamp and some fairy lights, a few knitted cushions and a scented candle can turn any home into a haven during autumn and winter.

Put self care on your list

 I’m a huge fan girl for self-care and I believe it becomes even more important at this time of year.

If you’re used to your mood dipping in the autumn and winter, you may be affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which as well as affecting mood can also show up as sleep problems, overeating, lethargy and more. Seeking support if you think you might be affected by SAD is really important as there are lots of different treatments that can help such as natural light lamps.  In addition, make sure that you’re getting enough Vitamin D. The UK Government have now recommended that everyone in the UK takes a Vitamin D supplement over the colder darker months, so check that you’ve got that covered.

 As we approach Christmas, especially for us ladies, things can get pretty hectic and stressful, to say the least. Make sure you’re not letting your needs languish at the bottom of your to-do list, but are actively getting those needs met, whether that’s taking some quite time to de-stress, having a relaxing bubble bath or getting some support with childcare. Whatever it might be that you need, now is a great time to start looking at that, certainly in advance of December!

I hope those tips help you thrive this autumn and winter!

Laura Agar Wilson

wholeheartedlyhealthy.com

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