Simple Winter Exercise
One of the simplest ways of beating the winter lockdown blues is to stay active, even when it’s dark and cold and you don’t really feel like it. Try to get outside once a day for walk and enjoy some fresh air. Start with a short fifteen minute walk and see how you go. Walk the dog or take the kids to the park and feed the ducks! We’ve had snow recently which gives you the opportunity to make a snow man or go sledging, all good ways to get out into the open air and get some exercise while having fun.
Lots of people have taken up cycling in the last year and there are lots of trails which are off road but suitable for cyclists. We have a great one that runs through Manchester – the Trans-Pennine Trail which stretches from Southport to Hornsea. ‘The Trans Pennine Trail is mapped and signed all the way, mainly traffic free and is surprisingly level considering the dramatic scenery along the way. Easy gradients and surfaced paths make many sections suitable for families, gentle exercise and people using wheelchairs and pushchairs. So whether on foot, horse or cycle; for a day or longer; alone with friends and family – the Trans Pennine Trail can offer something for everyone.’
You don’t even need to go outside to get some exercise if the weather is too bad! Check out the 5 Minute Kitchen Workout on Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s website. This consists of 5 exercises that you can do while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or you are waiting for your meal to cook. As well as improving your mood Dr Chatterjee claims that ‘Doing strength or bodyweight training before meals has been proven to improve blood sugar control and improve muscle sensitivity to insulin’. So sounds like it would be worth giving it a try!
Hygge to Cope with the Long, Bleak Winters
In Denmark, which has long and bleak winters, they embrace the concept of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah). So what is Hygge? According to Meik Wiking who wrote The Little Book of Hygge. ‘Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things.’ It is about enjoying life’s simple pleasures – cosiness, warmth and comfort and being present in the moment.’ So introduce a bit of Hygge into your life - embrace winter as a time to slow down, enjoy being at home, and spend quality time inside with friends and family. After all we haven’t got a lot of choice at the moment so we might as well make the most of it!
Create a cosy atmosphere in your home with candles or twinkly lights, soft rugs and cushions. Wear comfortable clothes – embrace the loungewear vibe. You could even create a dedicated Hygge space for yourself - a place in your home that feels like the perfect little cosy corner. Gather together cushions, blankets, low lighting and anything else that makes it snug. Use it for reading, journaling or meditating.
In ‘the little book of Hygge’, Meik Wiking recommends making an Emergency Hygge Kit for those times ‘when you are low on energy, have no plans, don’t feel like going out and are in the mood for some quality time alone’. The kit consists of some or all of the following:
- Good quality chocolate (or your favourite sweet treat)
- Your favorite tea (or hot chocolate)
- Your favorite book (or magazine)
- Your go-to DVD – could be a series or boxset
- Some delicious jam
- A good pair of warm socks
- A selection of letters
- A warm and comfy jumper
- A notebook
- A nice, cosy blanket
- Paper and a pen
- Favourite Music
- A photo album to remind you of good times
You can also improve your mood by using this time to plan things to look forward to later in the year when hopefully everything will be getting back to normal.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Practicing simple mindfulness techniques and exercises can help you improve mental clarity and curb anxiety. While cheerfulness and joy may not be the immediate results of doing a mindfulness exercise, doing them on a regular basis can give your brain a rest from ruminating constantly on the past and worrying about the future.
Below are a couple of exercises which are suggested in an article on mindfulness in Good Housekeeping Magazine - Mindfulness Activities to Reduce Stress and Increase Calm:
Tea Drinking Exercise
‘If you love drinking tea every day, why not try drinking it a little bit slower? Better yet, try drawing you attention to the sensations, smells, or sounds you observe from the moment you start brewing to the moment you finish your cup. Notice how it feels to make the tea, the colour of the tea leaves, the sound of the kettle, the shape of the mug, the scent that arises, what the tea tastes like, and how it feels in the body as you make and drink the tea. Invite yourself to meet the activity with an embodied presence by noticing sensations that arise as you drink the tea and how often the mind wanders. Then with compassionate awareness, gently bring the mind back to the tea, back to the body, resting it in the present moment.’
The Name Game
'This game is simpler than Eye Spy and yet it can be a powerful tool to curb spiralling thoughts. First, look around you and name three things you can hear, then two things you can see, and finally one sensation that you feel'.
Try New Recipes and Bakes
Baking was a popular activity during the long lockdown last March and April – see one of our previous blogs on Lockdown Baking. It is not only a mindful activity but you get to eat the results!
Maybe this time try some recipes you have fancied making but never had the time to try. Or if you are a first time baker start small with biscuits and cookies and work up to a gourmet meal. There are lots of videos on YouTube with full recipes and tips or pool your baking knowledge with the other people in your bubble.
The World Health Organisation defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
Some examples of self-care
Self-care is different for everyone - it’s about looking after yourself mentally and physically. As everyone has different needs and priorities self-care activities are a personal choice. It can be anything you do for yourself that makes you feel better or cared for. This could be taking an hour alone to read a book or magazine, having a pamper session or evening – taking a long luxurious bath for example, preparing a healthy meal or snack, going for a walk or doing some yoga. It’s up to you!
Why you need a self-care list
Watch this video from Ria at the Whole Happy Life which explains how creating your own self-care list can help you to manage stress, increase productivity and enhance wellbeing.