As I’ve mentioned in newsletters past (sign up here if you haven’t already!), I’m a huge believer in the ability of the seasons to affect everything from your mindset to your physical wellbeing – both of which in turn can affect your ability to do your best work. A lot of the optimism I was feeling a few months ago about the impending change in seasons was definitely down to a rose-tinted notion of cosy evenings spent in front of a fictitious roaring fire, as it's safe to say said fantasies have been cruelly slapped away by the grim reality of British winters and their trademark grey skies and constant drizzle. With the clocks going back a few weeks ago and December fast approaching, I’ve been giving some thought to how to stay creative and keep my brain ticking over during this, the season of little motivation and increased libation. When it comes to avoiding the winter blues, forewarned is forearmed – so here are a few ideas on how to get through the cold, dark months ahead, and ensure you’re as productive as possible.
Yes I know – the weather’s sh*t, which makes it extremely tempting to basically hibernate until March, but hear me out. Getting a daily dose of sunlight is crucial for keeping your mood and energy levels up, so particularly if you work from home, maintain (or introduce!) a habit of taking a walk during the day. It doesn't have to be long - 15 minutes will do. Not only is exposure to sunlight crucial for helping your body produce serotonin (a mood-boosting chemical), the cold is sure to get your blood pumping and wake you up. Win-win.
Whilst I love a good think piece as much as the next person (and have discovered some of my favourite writers online), nothing beats getting stuck into an actual book for inspiration. Skimming through a mishmash of tweets, Instagram posts and clickbait headlines is the dietary equivalent of a packet of crisps – it fills you up, but it’s not exactly nourishing. The colder weather means you’ll probably be spending more time indoors anyway, so why not use that extra time at home to stimulate your mind with some literary brain food? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out Girls At Library, an excellent online journal full of book recommendations from interesting women. Me? I’ll be getting stuck into Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, starting with a reading by her at the London Review Bookshop next week.
Don’t get me wrong, I love an evening in with nothing but a podcast for company – but humans are social animals, and we need regular social interaction to stay happy and sane. Making a concerted effort to stay social during the winter months is important for sparking fresh ideas, and stopping your brain from getting into a rut. Again, particularly if you work from home, be sure to schedule in regular socialising with friends, even if it’s just arranging to co-work together once a week.
LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY
As ever, looking after your physical wellbeing is crucial if you want to keep producing your best work. This winter I’m taking a two-pronged approach to keeping my health on track, paying special attention to both my diet and exercise. The run up to Christmas traditionally tends to be a time of increased indulgence, which is totally fine as long as you’re still getting your fair share of healthy foods too. Make sure you incorporate plenty of brain foods into your diet, such as oily fish (yes, smoked salmon canapés do count), eggs, and nuts. It might also be worth rounding out your diet with a few supplements too – try Vitamin D to make up for the lack of sunlight, and the B vitamins for energy.
As well as eating the right foods, staying active is more important than ever for helping boost your mood and energy levels, so try to resist the temptation to turn into a couch potato over the winter. If throwing yourself around a freezing park before or after work is your idea of hell, explore indoor classes such as HIIT (never tried it but heard it's good) or hot yoga (have tried it, and can 100% vouch for it). Whatever floats your boat, as long as it gets you moving - why not take a friend along for the ride and kill two birds with one stone? By getting some good habits in place now, you can build up slowly and avoid the usual 'feast-then-famine' mentality of bingeing on unhealthy foods in the run up to the end of the year because *Christmas*, followed by the shock of starting a punishing exercise regime in the New Year. Why wait?
What’s your secret to getting through the dog days of winter? Let me know in the comments box below!