Winter wellbeing for university students

Anne Balls

We’ve all heard of the “January blues”. It’s dark, it’s cold and Christmas is over. For university students, going back to uni to face the new term after a cosy Christmas break at home can be very daunting. Feeling depressed, tired and sleepy is not uncommon during this time.The good news? There are lots of easy steps students can take towards feeling better. Introducing our top 6:

#1 Eat well.

Food has an enormous impact on how we feel, both physically and mentally. Try to eat lots of fruit and veg and, as tempting as they are, avoid takeaways and other junk food. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lift your mood so try to eat plenty of eggs, oatmeal, yoghurt, peanut butter or seeds such as pumpkin or chia. Walnuts are a good source too.

#2 Exercise.

Being active is beneficial for our mental wellbeing.  If you’re new to exercise, start small. Try to incorporate healthy routines into your daily activities. Take the stairs instead of the lift or walk instead of getting a bus. To help you stay motivated, it’s a great idea to join a gym or find a running buddy.

#3 Get more light.

Being exposed to sunlight can help improve your mood and energy levels. Try to get outside every day, especially on sunny days. Even a short walk is beneficial to your health.

#4 Give for wellbeing.

Studies show that helping other people makes us happy (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Volunteering for a local charity is a great place to start. But if you prefer ad hoc good-doing, random acts of kindness are perfect. Call your grandparents, write a nice comment on your friend’s post, make a cup of tea for a housemate or do the dishes.

#5 Discover a new hobby.

Try to find something you enjoy doing and do it! It doesn’t need to be big, like playing a new instrument or learning a language (although those are great options)! Just reading a book or cooking a new recipe would do the trick. Try out different things and see what works best for you.

#6 Connect with people.

Evidence shows that social isolation and loneliness are associated with depression (Matthews et al., 2016). If cold, wintry evenings don’t make you feel like going out, why not invite your friends over for a cosy night in? Movies or games in slouchy clothes. Ideal.

It’s surprising how easy these actions are once you get started.

Self-care really does benefit us all.