Image Credit: @saratickle
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Winter is great and all, but the shorter days and colder temperatures can really wear on one’s spirit over time. Last week, I was so excited it was still light out at 5:30 PM and 20 degrees instead of ‑30 that I almost left the house for a run in shorts. I can feel spring in my bones, but it’s hard not to feel a little low now when I’m cooped up most hours of the day and don’t go out on the town as often. Here’s a few ways I’ve learned to be kind to my mind – spoiler alert: #1 is to go outside.
Editor-Loved Products for Boosting Mental Health in Winter (and Getting Off the Mountain!)
- Walking Spikes Yaktrax - $34.95.
- Headphones: Apple AirPods Pro - $199.99.
- Fleece-lined Leggings: Fast and Free High-Rise Fleece Tight 28" - $138.
- Mittens: Isvik Mitt- $50.
- Swim Suit: Solid High Cut One Piece Swimsuit - $90.
- Meditation Chair: Mara Hoffman Chair - $699-749.
- Meditation Pouf: Halfmoon Sit Set – $214.
- Meditation App: Headspace – pricing varies.
- Neuroscience / Meditation App: To Be Magnetic – pricing varies.
- Pens: Marvy Uchida LePen Fine Line Markers and Sets – $1.78 - $14.30.
- Journal: Classic Silk Notebook – now $19.96.
- Intention Journal: Joy Gratitude Journal – $35.
- Lamp: Blue Light Blocking Lamp – now $57.95.
- Sleep tracker: Oura Ring – $499.
In the winter, getting outside is easier said than done, but I’ve found that even a quick walk around the block while the sun is still shining does wonders for my mental clarity, energy, and joy. Interestingly, recent research shows that exposing oneself to around ten minutes of unfiltered sunlight immediately after waking up leaves you way less groggy and far more energized (than scrolling on your phone, for example.)
Some people also believe in the mental health benefits of being near trees and I’ve grown to be a firm believer in forest bathing. I often try to walk and be outside near trees or on trails. On super cold and icy days, I wear my yak tracks so as not to take a tumble on the ice skating rink that often is my driveway. Pop in some AirPods, put on some fleece-lined leggings, and grab your favorite pair of mittens (these are my favorite), and get outside.
2. Cold Plunge
I was terrified of cold plunging at first, but after my boyfriend built a sauna in his backyard, sessions of cold plunging / saunaing have become part of my weekly routine. Saunaing is good for your body in so many ways, and cold plunging has infinite physical and mental benefits too. Everyone’s heard of the Wim Hoff Method, which is a helpful starter for introducing yourself to the practice. I recommend starting small by just turning your shower to cold at the end (which bonus—is also good for your hair, skin, and immune system!) and working your way up to a full plunge. To me, the most fascinating thing I’ve learned about cold plunging is that it puts your body into fight-or-flight mode and you have the opportunity to calm it back down with deep breathing. This evidently is really healthy for us (in small doses) because it helps our bodies learn to recognize and cope with stressful situations. Having a cute suit for saunaing / cold plunging helps me get more motivated to do it.
I started taking meditation seriously about three years ago, and it’s transformed my life more than any of my other mental health practices. Meditation has helped my anxiety and enables me to have more presence in life overall.
I first learned to meditate using the Headspace app which makes learning how to meditate approachable. I love their topical offerings as well that allow me to practice meditations specific to how I’m feeling.
One thing I also found really beneficial when establishing a meditation practice was carving out specific space that I exclusively use for meditation. A chair like this one is definitely on my wish list, but for now, I have a little pouf that looks a lot like this one. It helps me to have good posture, and to mentally switch into meditation mode when I sit on it.
One app that’s helped me to deepen my practice of meditation and understand its neurological benefits even more is To Be Magnetic. I pay for the monthly subscription, but they also offer their packages à la carte. Their podcast is a great place to dip your toes in. .
4. Gratitude Journaling
I often pair my meditation practice with gratitude journaling. It’s also an amazing way for me to remember travels or set intentions for what adventures I’m most excited to pursue. Gratitude journaling helps me to shift my mindset and process emotions that feel too big to carry around. These are my favorite journaling pens, and I love a classic moleskin journal. If you’re looking for something a little more guided, this gratitude journal by Papier is gorgeous.
5. Sleep Well
When I’m feeling my mental health fade, the first thing that I check is my sleep. What time have I been going to bed? How much am I drinking? What am I doing before bed? Similar to how getting sunlight first turns off our melatonin production, being in the dark before bed gives our bodies to turn on those sleep-inducing mechanisms. Staying away from your phone and using red lights instead of white ones can greatly increase the quality of your sleep. (Side note: it’s also important to keep your bedroom primarily for sleeping to train your body.)
This Blue Light Blocking Lamp would be perfect for reading before bed. I’m also extremely obsessed with Oura Rings,which have exploded in popularity for their sleep tracking capabilities. Oura Rings can do so much – track menstrual cycles, measure energy, and more, but thousands of people have testified that wearing an Oura Ring has shifted the way they sleep. This sleek and stylish ring beats out the Apple Watch and FitBit when it comes to your rest and recovery. Also, they just launched a collaboration with Gucci which has to make it the most fashion-forward fitness and sleep tracker on the market by far.