Mental Wellness During Winter

warm cozy window arrangement, winter or autumn concept, candles throw lights

MOTHER EARTH NEWS – Every season has its challenges, but wintertime can present some increased obstacles to our health, notably our mental health. When temperatures drop, when the weather gets bad, when sunshine seems scarce for weeks, many of us struggle to feel like ourselves. However, implementing a few habits can help pull ourselves out of those winter blues. Explore these wellness tips for winter so you have a plan on how to promote good health when the weather gets cold.

  • Cultivate community to feel connected and find purpose in activities.
  • Keep some destress exercises in your back pocket when you feel overwhelmed, such as turning to a breathing exercise or scent.
  • Create simple rituals that you can look forward to daily and weekly, and enjoy the art of completing them.
  • Know what youíre eating and how it affects you. Consider tweaking your diet to support wellness.
  • Even when itís chilly, take time to move your body and get fresh air.

All of us can experience those winter blues a little differently, including lethargy and low energy, not feeling ourselves, and feeling melancholy. In winter, I tend to feel lackluster and have developed a few parts of my day that create sparks of enjoyment and find the fun in the seemingly mundane.

Note: These practices are mainly therapeutic, but supporting mental health can also involve working with your healthcare providers. Talk with them about implementing anything new into your health regimen, and get help if youíre experiencing deeper issues beyond routine winter blues.

Cultivate community. Our emotions can feel larger in our minds and when weíre alone. Sometimes, the best away to shake out of a funk is to spend time with friends or family. Being in community can help us feel more grounded and connected to the world around us and can help create a sense of purpose in the things we do. Schedule a time to see a friend in person, join a local interest group, or volunteer in your community. Or, on a smaller scale, greet someone in your neighborhood or during your errands. And who knows, they may be looking for a moment of connection too!

Community gardening can be a great way to make friends and serve your local area. Read how one school harnesses gardening for community, purpose, education, and outreach.


Take a breath. If you get stuck in a moment of ìfight or flight,î the simple exercise of breathing long and deeply can help lower your heart rate and foster a sense of calmness.

I use two deep-breathing exercises, and I practice these when Iím feeling good, so when Iím feeling bad, the habit is already in place. In one, trace the edges of a cellphone or another small rectangular object: Breathe in for four seconds and trace the short side of the rectangle, breathe out for eight seconds while tracing the longer side, and repeat. In another, breathe in a smell you enjoy, such as peppermint essential oil (breathe in for four seconds, out for eight seconds). Aromatherapy can provide several health benefits; even just the pattern of smelling a scent can help lower stress.

Create simple rituals. The seemingly mundane holds beauty, and you can create it by relishing the art of doing something and finding the ìromanceî to it. In winter, I create rituals I look forward to performing every day. In the mornings, I open all the curtains, put away the dried dishes into their cabinets, and write one page in my journal. In the evenings, I light candles when it gets dark. On Monday evenings, I dabble in a hobby, whether thatís knitting a few rows of a scarf or playing a couple songs on the piano.

What types of activities do you enjoy, however small? How can you make some tasks, like going through the mail or doing laundry, more fun? Can you listen to some music while folding laundry, or make your favorite cup of tea while sorting the mail or balancing the checkbook?

In winter especially, some cultures actively cultivate a vibrant, cozy life. In Denmark, this practice is called hygge, and it can inspire us to find more activities and ways to enjoy those dark winter days.

Know what youíre eating. Iíve enjoyed logging what Iíve eaten or drank on some days, because then I can look back and stay informed on what Iím eating and how thatís helping or hindering me. For example, one cup of coffee in the morning is part of an enjoyable ritual for me, but having two cups of coffee leaves me jittery and unfocused. Find some nourishing foods for your winter meals, such as citrus, healthy soups, and plenty of vegetables, and employ some herbs to help as well. Herbs offer great flavor in dishes and can also provide medicinal treatments, such as stress aid or soothing an upset stomach. Consider studying one or two and adding them to your health regimen to see how they can uplift you this season.

destress activities

Get some fresh air. Even if itís chilly, getting active outdoors can increase both our physical and mental health. Consider working on winter garden tasks ñ because any gardener knows how much exercise you can get simply by caring for plants. Set a goal to go outside and walk your street for a few minutes every day. One of my favorite winter activities is a nature observation walk, where see how many birds I can identify or what plants I can observe on my walks. We employ both body and mind ñ and our curiosity ñ when we can get outdoors and simply observe.

Keep a few wellness strategies in play before winter hits. Some of these habits require repetition and time to become effective, so practice them when youíre feeling good to solidify them. Then, when those winter blues start emerging, youíll feel more prepared to tackle them, and maybe youíll enjoy the season a little more too.


Breathing, stress, & heart rate:



Outdoor activity & mental health:

Benefits of Being Outdoors and Physical Activity