If you feel like your mental health worsens in winter, you’re not alone. Over 2 million people in the UK suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression which gets worse in the winter. However, even if you don’t suffer from SAD, it is normal to notice a drop in your wellbeing as the weather gets colder.
One of the causes of this is thought to be reduced daylight hours. When exposed to sunlight, your brain releases a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone which is responsible for boosting your mood and reducing stress levels. A lack of serotonin is typically associated with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. In fact, most antidepressants work by increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain.
If your employees are struggling with low moods, they may exhibit some tell-tale behaviours which you should look out for. When a person is feeling low, you may notice they seem more withdrawn, irritable or sad. As a result, they may become less engaged with their work, and their productivity will likely decrease. Other signs to look out for are tiredness, a neglect of person hygiene, and a changed appetite. Another worrying sign is an increased reliance on alcohol. If you notice these signs in a colleague, their first port of call should be to make contact with their GP, who will be able to offer support via their local mental health trust.
Of course, when it comes to mental health, prevention is always better than cure. We encourage businesses to invest in First Aid for Mental Health training which helps colleagues start conversations around this subject. Read on to find out how to improve the wellbeing of your team this winter.
The key to moving more is being consistent and setting realistic goals. Simply walking and cycling can have huge benefits on our wellbeing. However, as the weather gets colder and wetter, exercises that can be done indoors may be a better option.
A good option for indoor exercise is Yoga Sun Salutations. Sun Salutations are a sequence of postures that can strengthen and align your body. They are often used to warm up for other activities. One of the main benefits of Sun Salutations is that they can regulate breathing, which can reduce stress and anxiety. By encouraging your team to do around 15-20 minutes of Sun Salutation daily, you will likely see an improvement in their wellbeing. For more information and an easy beginners sequence, check out this blog post.
Exercise can boost wellbeing as movement triggers your brain to release endorphins. The results of this are improved mood and reduced stress. On top of this, regular exercise can boost energy levels, improve sleep quality and even boost self-esteem. These are key in maintaining mental wellbeing.
A healthy diet is also key in boosting wellbeing. Vitamin deficiencies, for example, are notorious for causing low moods and increased stress.
In fact, the UK government recommends that we take Vitamin D supplements between October and March, as reduced sunlight means that our body doesn’t make enough. Signs that you may be deficient in Vitamin D include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness and low mood. It’s also important not to take too much, as this can lead to calcium build up in the body which can damage bones, kidneys and the heart. 10 micrograms a day is enough for most adults.
Overeating is also common in the winter. Scientists are not sure why this happens, but it may be a hangover from our survival instincts. In the past, it would’ve been harder to source food in the winter, and increased fat stores would’ve increased the chance of survival in cold weather. As a result, we tend to crave high fat and sugar foods more in winter, which can have a massive impact on wellbeing. Eating these types of food can cause weight gain, but even more concerning may be that they are linked with anxiety and depression.
To combat this, encourage your team to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as high fibre and protein foods which can tackle unhealthy cravings. To help your colleagues with this, you could provide office snacks, or send out boxes to employees who are working from home. For more information, you could check out Snackcess, as well as this blog post for more healthy snack ideas.
As with movement, encourage consistency over perfection, as overly restrictive and obsessive diets can harm wellbeing just as much as an unhealthy diet.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation which aims to bring awareness to how you are feeling, both physically and mentally in the present moment. This self-awareness has many benefits, including improved mood, reduced stress, and better decision making and focus. This dramatically boosts overall wellbeing, which in turn can help your employees become happier and more productive.
One way to introduce this to your workplace is by checking out our mindfulness services. We offer a range of mindfulness courses which can help your team on their way to improving their wellbeing this winter.
By nature, humans are social beings who thrive off of human interaction, whether that be with their friends, family, or colleagues. With many teams working from home, your colleagues may be feeling lonely and isolated.
Although there is little we can do in person at the moment, virtual meet ups can be just as effective at combating loneliness. Arranging activities such as zoom quizzes or virtual office parties will help your team feel more connected. Another idea would be to put colleagues who live alone in touch with each other, which can encourage new friendships to form.
By putting in the effort to connect with your team, you may notice that their wellbeing improves.
If you and your team are feeling low at the moment, we hope that these lifestyle changes may help to combat this. As many of us are counting down the days until spring, remember to look after yourself this winter and in return you will see your overall wellbeing improve.