Here are some simple and free wellness hacks to boost your mood and keep the winter blues away.
Journaling is simply writing down our thoughts and feelings, and can be really helpful for improving our mental health. There are no right or wrong ways to journal, but here are some ideas that might be helpful.
Writing three things we are grateful for each day can help draw focus on appreciation for what we have rather than thinking about what we don’t have or are lacking in.
Journaling can be a therapeutic way of writing about feelings. They can help us deal with ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, jealousy, sadness or anxiety. Writing it down is a form of release – and gets it out of our system rather than keeping it held inside, which in turn can help us feel better about it. Trapped emotions hold us back and aren't helpful. If we find it difficult to say what we are feeling, then writing it down is incredibly an helpful tool.
You can also use journals to set goals or to celebrate an achievement you’ve made this week – no matter how small. Journals are also a great place to write to do lists, helping us focus on productivity.
Journals are really great to read back on, and help you gain a better understanding of yourself in a non-judgemental way.
Breathing exercises are simple to do yet have a powerful and positive effect on our overall wellbeing. Focusing on the breath can help us feel calmer as we concentrate on the in and the out breath we are brought to the present moment, away from our thoughts or worries. Breathing exercises bring more oxygen to the lungs and brain, our heart rate slows down, our blood pressure drops and we instantly feel calmer. There are many different breathing techniques out there – just google breathing methods for stress.
Box breathing or square breathing is a favourite of mine as your attention becomes focused on the lines of the box, and you are less likely to become distracted.To box breathe imagine the four lines of a box – breath in for 4 going across the box hold the breath for 4 going down the box – breathe out for 4 going across the bottom of the box and hold the breath again going up the box. Repeat for a few minutes, and see how you feel. Another nice breathing method is to breathe in for 4 hold for 4 breathe out for 6 and hold for 2. Holding a longer out breath is really helpful for calming us down if we are in a state of anxiety. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, if you prefer not to count just concentrate on breathing in through the nose and taking a slower ‘out’ breath through the nose or mouth.
Have your breakfast /cup of tea/coffee sitting outside. If you have a garden try and make time to get out there each morning and sit and listen to the birds, look at the sky, take note of the trees, the colours you see the sounds you hear. These simple mindful acts can bring us to the present moment, and help us enjoy the beauty and simplicity of life. If you don't have a garden try and get out for a walk to catch the morning light. Getting that vitamin D into our skin from the sun as early as possible in the day will boost our mood as serotonin and dopamine are released. This is really helpful for setting us up for a productive as well as calm day. Early morning sun also helps set our natural body clock helping us sleep better at night. Each season has something beautiful to offer there is so much to see and appreciate just by being outside.
Walking / Running
Aside from keeping us fit, walking improves our mental health, helps us problem solve, releases feel good hormones and generally boosts our mood. If you can get out as early as possible you also get the benefits of the morning sun as mentioned already. Try not to take your phone with you, treat a walk as a time to be mindful, noticing your surroundings and being present in the moment. It’s so easy to go on ‘autopilot’ and before we know it another day has passed. Walking is the perfect opportunity to reset your wondering mind.
Running also has a really positive effect on our mood. It’s been known to really help with mild and moderate depression. Runners often experience a runner’s high when their body releases feel good hormones such as endorphins. Even ten minutes of running can really make a difference. You don’t have to run the whole time you can simply mix running and walking ('rulking' as I've named it😊) together. You’re not competing with anyone so do what works for you, I promise you will feel great. You will never regret a walk or a run.
Cold Water Dips
Cold water swimming has become really popular over the last few years. It’s thought to boost the immune system, improve our mood and reduce stress. When we get into really cold water our body goes into fight or flight mode as stress hormones are released (cortisol), as well as pain relief/happy hormones (endorphins). If we regularly immerse ourselves in cold water this initial shock and hormone release significantly reduces which is thought to transfer positively over to how we deal with every day life stresses, helping us cope with them in a much calmer way. Try switching to a cold shower for the last minute or two in the mornings. Notice how different it makes you feel after.
Simply putting your bare feet on the earth helps to restore our natural electric charge, which in turn brings many benefits. By connecting our feet with the earth in this way has been found to help calm the nervous system, reduce stress and encourage a sense of well being in our bodies. Spending up to 20 or 30 minutes a day bare foot on the grass, earth or sand is enough to start feeling the benefits. This is obviously much easier to achieve in the warmer months! Make the most of a sunny day whatever the season, and take time to connect with the ground, even if it's just for a few minutes. You can also buy grounding mats which give the same positive effect on the body for when it's really too cold to be outside barefoot. By the way being in the sea or river also counts as grounding
I hope this has helped. I find all of these have personally helped me and the best thing of all is that they are all free. Have you tried any or all of these yet? Why not make 2024 the year you try them.
With love, Anna
Andrew Huberman's podcasts Huberman Lab www.hubermanlab.com
Steven Bartlett's podcast Diary of a CEO www.stevenbartlett.com
Dr Chatterjee's podcast Feel Better Live More www.drchatterjee.com
For women's hormones in particular Dr Mindy Pelz The Resetter Podcast www.drmindypelz.com