Being on top of self-care during the winter months can seem like an uphill climb: eat your greens, get some sunlight, move around, make sure you don't spend all day hibernating in bed with Netflix and hot chocolate (even though a bit of that is
great). But there are also some less conventional methods for boosting your mental health in the colder seasons of the year — and you may never have contemplated some of them.
"Our country's mental health is at an all-time low,"
Robin Hornstein Ph.D., a psychologist and counselor, tells Bustle. "With one in five adults reporting that their mental health is seriously compromised when compared with the previous year or two, this winter requires us all to shore up our energy and our creativity." She recommends exploring everything that might help, from favorite movies and long walks outside to making sure your home feels cozy and safe. If the old methods aren't working this year, though, you might need to branch out — into mindful walking, dark showers, ice-cold face baths, or doing your skin routine in bed with a foster puppy.
Here are nine unusual ways people are helping their mental health this winter.
"The most unusual (and very effective) mental health tip I’ve used is
cold therapy. This includes things such as ice baths, cold showers, and simply being outdoors in the cold for long periods of time. It sounds crazy, but the science supports that cold therapy not only boosts physical immunity, but also elevates emotional wellness." — Jordan, 24
Lean In To What You're Capable Of
"It might seem unusual to give in to your mental health issues rather than go against them, but winter — especially in a pandemic — is not the time to push yourself and make yourself more tired. Besides, you're not giving in to it completely because you're making small manageable moves. For instance, I find that water is harder to get myself to drink in the winter, but I accept that drinking tea or coffee is just as good if it means I'm going to stay hydrated! Another example is with skincare - if you can't bring yourself to wash your face at the sink with water, then put micellar water and cotton pads by your bed and do it all from there!" — Rhiannon, 22
"I offer free monthly
breathwork sessions to my community. It helps alleviate stress and anxiety and exercises your respiratory muscles." — Vanni, 30s
"I have to be especially diligent about managing my symptoms in the winter because of the lack of sunlight. I
use a sun lamp during the winter months to instantly boost my mood if I'm feeling down. Just a few minutes a day on gray days and it does wonders. The trick is to have it in the periphery (like the sun, don't look directly at the light!)." — Nicole, 30
Immerse Your Head In Water
"Feeling anxious? Bend over, hold your breath, and immerse put your face in a bowl of cold water for up to 60 seconds. This is usually sufficient to
induce the 'dive reflex.' The colder the water and the longer the immersion, the better it works. The dive reflex is when our hearts tend to slow down below resting heart rate when submersed in cold water without oxygen. This is due to increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases arousal." — Sabrina, 30s
Kitten café! People might not always want a pet or be allowed to have pets, so visiting cat cafés is a great way to reap the benefits. Those who have pets or interact with animals are less likely to suffer from depression, have elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine which help relax and calm an individual, have fewer visits to doctors, and have better overall physical and mental health." — Ashleigh, 38
"There's a service called
Listeners on Call that I have been using to help with managing stress. It is a phone service that you can dial where you can speak with therapists, or you can get pre-screened to then speak with another normal person who has gone through what you are going through now. It’s pretty neat." — Alex, 25
"The last two years I've signed up for a
half marathon race in January or February. I discovered running a few years ago, and ever since it's been one of the most important contributions to my mental health, especially in the winter months. I have really bad seasonal affective disorder, and I live in an area where the winters are really gloomy and rainy. By signing up for a marathon or half marathon, I have a goal that I can work toward in the winter that keeps me focused and healthy. I personally run five days a week as part of my training, which gives me consistency and forces me to get outside every day." — Grace, 26
Shower in the dark! It really helps if you’re feeling overwhelmed/overstimulated, because with the lights off you’re just in a little sensory cocoon with hot water and water sounds." — Sarah, 33