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Health Awareness Q4 2023

Ways to embrace winter wellness and wind down

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Maridav

Marie Duffy

PR and Communications Officer, Mental Health Ireland

As you attempt to crawl out of bed each morning in winter, it’s easy to see why animals choose to hibernate. In the natural world, winter is a time for slowing down.

There are huge benefits to slowing down in winter. In the past, people followed the seasons more closely, getting up much later and going to bed earlier. Winter would be easier if we stopped fighting our instincts to slow down and embraced it instead. 

Focusing on calmness in the winter

In Scandinavia, they are much better at embracing it than we are in Ireland. In Denmark, they have a concept called ‘Hygge’ (pronounced hoo-guh), which places a focus on taking time away from the restlessness of life to relax and enjoy life’s quieter pleasures. Winter is the perfect time for adopting it into your life. It could be anything from spending time with friends or family or snuggling up with a book.  

Take time to unwind in nature

Another way to look after yourself this winter is to spend time in nature, and experts have long championed the benefits of it. In Norway, they call disconnecting in nature, ‘Friluftsliv’ or ‘outdoor life.’ Even getting outside for five minutes is helpful. The key is not waiting until you ‘feel like it’ because the chances are you rarely will. That means wrapping up and braving the elements. Remember: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.

Winter would be easier if we stopped fighting our instincts to slow down and embraced it instead. 

Making the most of wintertime

  • Try to go outside every day for natural sunlight, whether it’s a walk or enjoying your morning coffee. 
  • Resist the temptation of that box of chocolates, and try to fit in wholesome options like soups and stews. 
  • Take time for activities you enjoy, be it a hobby or watching a movie. 
  • Use December as a time to reflect and plan for the upcoming year. Write down reflections without shaming yourself for the things you did or didn’t do. 

In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to ignore winter’s call to slow down. Instead, our focus is on doing as much as we can, as fast as we can. By following these simple ways to wind down, we give ourselves the chance to keep well this season.  

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