It's almost the end of summer. And that means that autumn is on its way: I couldn't be happier. Golden leaves, crisper days, delicious stews, cosy fires, sturdy boots – I love it when the nights are drawing in. Yes, the warmer months are always welcome, but I'm quite content with the changing seasons and don't mind the oncoming cold and dark.
But for many, this time of year is depressing. It's understandable. Commuting to work in horrendous weather is never fun. Leaving the house and returning home when it's dark can be soul-destroying. A lack of sunshine is never easy, especially when we long for warm sun on our skin. I get it. Winter is not ideal.
But there are things we can do to combat the winter blues and embrace all that is to come. Here, we share some golden tips to help you enjoy this time of year.
1. Change your mindset
Instead of feeling depressed about the colder months, why don't you try and identify your negative feelings and turn them into positive ones? Rather than think that winter is rubbish, consider the aspects that you do enjoy – like Christmas markets perhaps, or real wood fire. Anything that makes things more bearable. What about hot chocolate or comfort food? Waking up on a Saturday, hearing the wind and rain outside, and realising you have a cosy lie-in? It's the small things, after all.
2. Introduce traditions
To get through winter, we always have traditions. For instance, we save favourite festive movies for November and December, and work our way through them each night, enjoying a real fire in our living room with lots of candles burning too.
It's something we look forward to. It's the nostalgia that evokes happy memories and makes this time of year so unique. There are so many great films, and they don't necessarily have to be festive – Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Toy Story. But Die Hard is always saved for Christmas Eve. Naturally.
What can you look forward to? Could you do a slow-cooked meal every Friday, so when you return home from work, you have the gorgeous smell of food drifting through the house? Could you start a weekly meet up with friends? (Every Tuesday, we catch up with friends and watch a couple of episodes of something – like the West Wing or Gilmore Girls.) Perhaps you could introduce October as the month to try something new. Create new traditions and winter will always be something you welcome with open arms.
3. Embrace Hygge
It was super trendy last year, but Hygge is still valid and worthwhile. If you don't yet know what it means, it's a Danish and Norwegian word which can be described as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being".
So make your home a cosy retreat from the harsher weather, and fill it with cosy blankets and cushions. Buy some new pyjamas and slippers – super soft ones. Light candles everywhere, and add a few cosy lamps in dark corners of your house. My favourite tip – buy fairy lights and drape them in your lounge – IKEA has some LED lights that always look great!
4. Keep moving your body and get outside when you can
Exercise does wonders to the soul. It releases those super awesome endorphins, which boost happiness, and studies have shown that moving your body can even alleviate symptoms of depression. What's more, physical activity outdoors and "exposure to nature" are known to have positive effects on your mental health.
Whenever the weather allows, get outside. Especially if the sun is shining, as it will boost your well-being. But if you're hoping to top up on essential vitamin D, think again. In the UK, sunlight doesn't contain enough UVB radiation in winter for our skin to be able to make any vitamin D. Instead, turn to your food – oily fish, red meat and eggs are recommended.
5. Save your beach holiday for winter
The Canary Islands are beautiful in January and February. And they're not especially expensive either. We went in early March, and I cannot recommend it enough. Stepping off the plane into bright sunshine is incredible. It immediately lifts your mood and makes you feel good to be alive.
The sunshine brings a wealth of health benefits. It keeps your bones healthy (thanks, vitamin D); it fights off Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it boosts your overall happiness and well-being. What more do we need to say? Book that winter sun holiday right now. Besides, having something to look forward to will keep you going.
6. Take a little summer with you
Just because it's winter, doesn't mean you have to stop summer habits – like going to the market and buying fresh food to cook at home, or going out for a lovely brunch on a Saturday. Don't become a hermit. Arrange stuff, and treat this time of year the same as you would when it's warmer.
If you haven't already, whack a calendar up in your kitchen and fill it with things to look forward to. Just having everything there to look at every day will lift your spirits. Yes, you've got your calendar on your iPhone, but nothing beats the real thing. Next, save a memento or photograph from each event (yes, you really can print images – try SnapFish) and pin it to a corkboard or attach to your fridge. Every time you see it, you'll be transported back, and it'll make you smile.