Winter Wellbeing

Looking for some tips on how to stay mindful of your wellbeing during these cold months? Here's a handy guide on a couple things to watch out for!

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I know that winter can be a rough time, and this one especially - it’s dark, cold, and not everyone can go home and see their loved ones. If you want some ideas for battling loneliness and low mood over these months, we’ve put together some things we hope might help.

Stay active

Winter is the worst time of year to try and stay motivated about exercising, but it can also be one of the most helpful things you can do if you’ve been feeling down. Getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day is the recommended amount, and proven to help with anxiety, stress, and depression.

If you don’t feel like braving the outdoor world, get a membership at your local gym! Maybe you like group classes, team sports, or doing your own thing - there are plenty of options. Or there are a lot of exercises you can do at home, even in very small spaces: here is a list of some of the best aerobic exercises you can do in a bedroom, no special equipment required. There are also plenty of beginner workout Youtube channels, as well as exercise apps like Seven: Home Workout & Exercise that I personally used as a beginner to learn and keep me motivated.

Keep your nutrition in mind

You might be craving food higher in carbohydrates and starch over winter, and that’s fine! When you spend time outside in the cold, your body burns more calories keeping you warm, and carbs are your body’s main way of getting that energy. Plus, would it really be Christmas if we didn’t indulge in some mince pies? Just remember to try and some fruits and vegetables every day, and to stay hydrated too!

  • If you’re feeling low on energy and struggling to make yourself cook, you can maximise the energy you do have by batch cooking. Winter is the perfect time to cook things like soups, stew, chilli, and curry - all these and more are perfect for freezing and reheating, and super healthy!
  • Using a service like Hello Fresh or Gousto can also be really helpful: half the struggle of cooking sometimes is deciding what you want to eat, and getting boxes of ingredients with recipes delivered to your door can make it a lot less stressful. Watch out for student discounts to grab a bargain!
  • Invest in vitamins. Always check with your doctor if you’re on other medication or just want to be certain if they’re right for you, but supplementary vitamins can be very helpful. Especially over the winter months people tend to become vitamin D deficient due to lack of sunlight, and supplements are a good way to help! Just keep in mind vitamin supplements are not a replacement for healthy food.

Slow down and be mindful

  • Meditation. The classic - it’s often recommended for a reason! Personally, I like to meditate for 15 minutes right before I go to classes - I find it puts me in a calm headspace that makes it easier for me to focus and be productive. Other people like to meditate first thing in the morning or right before they go to bed… it’s a case of working out when it would help you the most. You can find a helpful guide to getting started here, and there are apps like Calm and Headspace that can help guide you if you’re struggling. Some people also find putting music or audiobooks on in the background helpful!
  • Hobbies that require you to both focus and do repetitive motions - knitting, painting, playing an instrument, writing - have been proven to decrease anxiety, and can significantly improve your mindset for the day. There’s a long list of ideas here if you’re looking for a new hobby, but most likely you already have at least one in mind! We all deserve to be happy and taking some time out of the day to do something you love is a good place to start.
  • While it is exercise, we decided to put yoga in this section because it is also a deeply meditative activity. Focusing on your breathing, on your body, and quieting your mind is almost the definition of ‘mindfulness’. If you find it difficult to do normal meditation, or meditative hobbies like crochet that require sitting still, yoga, pilates, or just walking in nature are great alternatives for getting that same kind of calm.

Spend time with people

  • Video calls. Make a point of speaking to all the people you would have seen in-person if you could have, and maybe some more too! With the wonders of modern technology, everyone can still be together in some way at least. Make sure to reach out to your family and friends if you need to - they will be happy to help.
  • Volunteer. Tis the season to be helpful! A lot of charities need more help than usual over the holidays and may have temporary roles during the holidays. If you feel lonely or bored, this is a great way to be productive and meet new, friendly people! A good place to start looking for roles is the Student Union Volunteering page, as well as local charity websites.

If you do need someone to talk to or some extra emotional support, you can also go to the Student Union’s winter wellbeing page, or email StudentConnect@cardiff.ac.uk directly.

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