With shorter days and cold and gloomy weather, the winter months can often have a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

This may be the winter blues, or it could be seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD.

We’ve come up with some tips to help you with your mental health and wellbeing throughout the winter.

Seeking professional support from a counsellor can help if you're struggling with your mental health during the winter - or at any time of year.

The tips have come from our members, who are counsellors and psychotherapists.

Increase exposure to natural light

During the winter months, our exposure to natural light is limited. This affects the levels of some hormones in our bodies which are vital for our mental health.

Getting outside for some fresh air and a walk can help with this, even if the weather’s a bit nippy.

If you’re not able to get out, than try to make your home as light and airy as possible and sit near a window.

You can also investigate getting a light therapy lamp.

Eat healthy and balanced meals

Food and nutrition is closely linked to how we feel. Eating healthy and balanced meals can help improve our mood.

Our member Emma Bland says she often to works with clients to understand how food is linked to their mental health.

“I explore with clients how what they eat can have an impact on their mood - exploring their self-esteem and patterns of behaviour linked to their foods choices and diet. I reflect with clients on what food means to them.”

Improve your sleep hygiene

Sleep has a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Improving your sleep hygiene means finds routines and habits that help you to get the best possible night’s sleep.

This could be making your bedroom as comfortable, as quiet and as dark as possible; following a nightly bedtime routine; not looking at your phone before bed; or trying relaxation and breathing techniques.

Exercise in moderation

Physical activity can improve our mood – even if it’s just a short burst of exercise.

Research shows it can also help manage stress and anxiety.

It doesn’t have to be daily gym visits, long-distance runs or competitive sports though – it could be a brisk walk, some stretching or yoga, or making use of the outdoor gym at your local park.

Even doing household chores – such as vacuuming – or dancing around your kitchen to your favourite tunes can help.

Our member William Pullen says: “Exercise is a fantastic vehicle with which to pursue positive mental health. Personally I prefer walking and running as they are adventurous, really available and free."

Over-exercising can sometimes be as unhealthy for you as not doing enough exercise.

Do more of what you enjoy

Finding time to do the things you love is really important to your mental health – whether that’s getting lost in a good book, taking time out of your day for a 30-minute yoga session, or catching up with friends for a coffee.

But often we don’t prioritise these activities or we think we’re not worthy of spending this time on ourselves.

Our member Dee Sanders says: “The trick is to give yourself permission – it’s not self-indulgence – it’s showing self-care and self-respect.

“When we engage in joyful, fulfilling activities it has a greater impact - on our moods, confidence, ability to process emotions and helps us to want to connect with others more.”

Talk to a counsellor

If you feel your low mood in winter is affecting your everyday life then you may wish to seek professional support.

Counselling can give you a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space to chat to a skilled, qualified professional about your issues and concerns.

Your counsellor will help you explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours so you can develop a better understanding of yourself and others.

They'll help you find your own solutions – whether that’s making changes in your life or finding ways of coping with problems.

Emma adds: “Therapists support clients to explore their feelings without judgement, in an empathic space. I will often explore with the client that we are both on this journey together and I am there with them every step of the way.” 

How to find a counsellor

Although you may be able to see a counsellor through your GP or the NHS, from where you work or study, or through charities and voluntary services – you can pay to see a private BACP counsellor. This gives you a wider choice and you may be able to see someone quicker, perhaps for longer. 

Anyone can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist, so it’s important you choose a therapist who’s listed on a Professional Standards Authority accredited register – such as the BACP register.

Choosing a BACP-registered counsellor gives you an assurance that they meet the standards of proficiency, training and ethical practice you would expect.

Find a BACP member who can help you using our Therapist directory.