These simple and effective Winter self-care ideas will lift your mood, help you de-stress, and keep you healthy this cold season. Even while socially distancing!
Did you know that 80% of sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka Winter blues) are women?1https://www.cbc.ca/news/sad-no-longer-brilliant-light-cure-for-seasonal-disorder-1.2962056
Nobody’s exactly sure why this is, but some scientists believe it’s an evolutionary quirk to force women to conserve energy for child-rearing while resources are scarce in the colder months.2https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/30/sad-winter-depression-seasonal-affective-disorder
With so many of us feeling lethargic, unmotivated, flat or downright gloomy during the frosty season there’s no arguing that Winter self-care and learning how to stay happy during Winter is vital.
Why is Winter Self-Care Important?
Winter comes with it’s unique challenges and stressors which must be taken into account.
One of the biggest watch-outs is that Winter means less daylight hours.
This is thought to be the primary cause of the Winter blues or the more severe Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of seasonal depression that strikes only during Fall and Winter.
Sunlight regulates many hormones in your body. Less natural light can lead to the following problems:3https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
- More production of melatonin which is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy – that’s why you may feel low energy and crave more sleep than usual.
- Less production of serotonin which is linked to depression, as it’s a key hormone that stabilises your mood and appetite.
- Your body’s circadian rhythm or internal clock may be thrown out of order. Your body uses sunlight to regulate sleep-wake cycles and having this disrupted can lead to many symptoms of SAD.
On top of that, the colder weather and overcast skies can make us feel less motivated to move while at the same time, crave denser, higher-calorie food.
While we naturally spend more time indoors and less time socializing in Winter anyway, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this worse, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This means, during Winter you have to be intentional about taking care of yourself and prioritise your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Set yourself up for success by adding these scientifically-proven Winter self-care ideas to your self-care routine.
Who knows, you may even learn to love the unique joys that these colder months can bring!
61 Best Winter Self-Care Ideas
The Essential Foundations
These self-care ideas are the most important aspects of Winter self-care.
They are scientifically proven to have the most impact on your mood and health during the Winter months.
Even though they may be basic, make sure you tick them off your list before you add anything else.
They form the essential bedrock of your Winter wellbeing.
1. Get your daily dose of sunlight
Lack of sunlight is the number one culprit for many of the Winter blues and SAD symptoms we feel.
With shorter daylight hours available, wake up earlier so you can take advantage of more sunshine in your day.
Soak up the rays through a socially-distanced morning walk or spend some time sitting next to the window when the sun is out.
A lightbox is often used in countries where there’s only a few hours of sunlight a day and has been shown to relieve SAD symptoms for sufferers. Buy one from Amazon and start with 30 mins a day sitting in front of it.4https://sad.psychiatry.ubc.ca/resources/public-resources/light-therapy-procedure-for-using-the-10000-lux-fluorescent-light-box/
Or try a dawn simulator to help regulate your sleep/wake cycle. It’s a light that gradually brightens your room in the morning to mimic the sun rising, as sunlight is what our body naturally uses to help us wake up.
2. Exercise and move your body
Studies show that just 15 minutes of exercise a day can reduce your risk of depression and put you in a better mood.5https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
Safe to say Winter self-care means moving your body.
While you probably can’t attend your favourite classes or do many outdoor activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the plus side is that it’s actually easier now than ever to find online classes and activities to join.
Check whether your favourite gym or studio is holding online classes, or just hop on youtube and search for a multitude of free HIIT, Dance, Yoga, pilates, and Strength-training follow along workouts. I like HIIT style ones from Pamela Reif, Madfit and SELF.
I also like to follow the workouts on Instagram TV from many fitness influencers who are offering free live workouts during the pandemic and saving them to their IGTV.
Moving your body doesn’t have to be formal exercise either – cleaning the house, an impromptu dance party or stretching counts too.
I list more of these self-care ideas to move your body below.
3. Stay connected to friends and family
Research consistently shows that maintaining strong relationships is crucial to our happiness and mental health.6https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships
Winter usually means less social events as everyone hibernates inside and quarantine this year has made keeping in contact with our loved ones even harder.
However it’s important to make a conscious effort to stay in touch with family and friends through phone calls or video chat to stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Try to schedule recurring weekly calls in the calendar so you can check up on each other and have something to look forward to!
There are also many creative and fun ways to host virtual social get-togethers like online board games nights, zoom quiz nights and even sending old fashioned letters via snail mail.
See this section for more ideas.
4. Maintain a balanced diet, especially with proven mood-boosting foods
While it’s good for the soul to indulge a little during the holiday season, overindulgence in sugar and simple carbs (think cake, white bread, pasta and cookies) can lead to blood sugar crashes, energy drain and mood swings.
If you’re already feeling a bit fragile during the Winter months, stabilise your mood and energy through eating a balanced mix of wholegrains (which provide slow-release energy), fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
Also include some mood-boosting foods in your diet like fatty fish, dark chocolate, berries, nuts and lentils which help the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain. 7https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mood-food
5. Stay hydrated
We tend to drink water less in Winter because we feel less thirsty…
…however just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean you aren’t dehydrated (which can lead to difficulty focusing and bad moods).8https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/12/19/are-you-drinking-enough-water-during-winter-months
The drier environments and heating in Winter also increase water loss.
Make sure you are drinking the recommended 8 glasses (2.7 liters) of water a day – your skin will thank you for it too!
6. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night – no exceptions!
Sleep is crucial to balance hormones and essential functions of the body.9https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important
I know I definitely get grumpy and crave sugar for energy when I don’t get enough sleep.
While the amount of sleep you need may vary, it is generally recommended for adults to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
If it’s hard for you to switch off at night – establish a sleep routine:
Try turning off all devices at least 30 minutes before bed (the blue light disrupts your ability to sleep).10https://www.sclhealth.org/blog/2019/09/why-it-is-time-to-ditch-the-phone-before-bed/
Or reading, lighting some candles, listening to nature sounds and taking a warm bath to help you relax.
Keep your room cool and block out any artificial light for your best chance of drifting off.
7. Establish a routine (essential Covid-19 Winter self-care)
With our lives turned upside down by Covid-19 and so much uncertainty around the world, it’s easy to feel out of control and anxious this Winter.
Establishing a routine, especially if you’ve been forced to work from home, can provide a much needed structure to your day to anchor and stabilise you.
Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time, eat and take breaks at set times, schedule a daily walk or exercise session and a regular catch-up with family, friends and colleagues in your calendar.
A routine will give you a sense of control and comfort amongst uncertainty and make long Winter days spent inside much more manageable.
8. Consider a Vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D is a mineral we usually derive from sunlight. With a predominantly indoors lifestyle during Winter, vitamin D deficiency is very common11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/.
I lived in Australia and had a vitamin D deficiency because I worked mainly in an office, so it can strike anywhere!
Lack of vitamin D can leave you feeling depressed, tired, with impaired immune function and loss in bone density.12https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
It is recommended by the UK National Health Service to supplement with 10 micrograms (400IU) of Vitamin D a day between October and early March.
The Rest: Fun and Creative Winter Self-Care Ideas
With the big guns that make up the foundation of your Winter self-care out of the way, it’s time for a few fun ideas…
See a round-up of my favorite, creative ways to take care of yourself during Winter.
Use these self-care ideas to relieve stress, lift your mood and stay happy and toasty all Winter long.
Try one or try them all!
- Put candles around your house and light them for a warm, cozy and hygge atmosphere.
- Have do-absolutely-nothing day and give yourself permission to stay in bed in your pyjamas all day.
- Host a virtual board game or quiz night with friends. You could play Scattergories, Codenames or Monopoly online.
- Flip through old photo albums and remember all the good times you’ve had and look forward to all the good times that are going to come!
- Perform a bath ritual for some relaxing Winter self-care.
Fill a hot bath with bath salts, fragrant oils or simply add some baking soda and sea salt.
Put on a soothing playlist, light some candles, put on a face mask, then lie back and let the tension release from your body.
- Savour the simple pleasures that bring joy to your life like watering your plants, sipping a creamy hot chocolate and being snug and warm in bed in the morning.
- Play and cuddle with your pets. 100% guaranteed to increase happiness!
- Put on some upbeat music and have an ecstatic dance session.
Ecstatic dancing is about letting go of self-consciousness and moving your body in any way it wants to move.
Do what feels good and let go of any definition of what ‘dancing’ should look like.
- Nothing beats a lovingly-made hot drink in Winter to warm you from inside out.
Brew up a homemade hot chocolate, fragrant herbal tea, matcha latte or my personal favourite – a milky masala chai. Bonus: it fills your house with the most aromatic spiced fragrance while it’s bubbling on the stovetop.
Pour your drink of choice into your favourite mug and really take the time to savour this beautiful moment.
- Do some deep breathing exercises to help re-centre yourself, release stress and increase focus.
Try square or box breathing which is a powerful relaxation technique even used by the Navy Seals13https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321805
It’s simple –
a) Start in an upright seated position
b) Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold at the top for a count of 4, then breathe out through your mouth for a count of 4.
c) Repeat the cycle 4 times or until you feel calm.
- When you’re spending so much time indoors, comfort is key. There’s nothing that says cozy more than an oversized sweater and some thick Winter socks.
Or invest in some soft, loose, natural-fibre clothing that feels luxurious against the skin and that says self-care the moment you put it on.
- Do something nice for others. Research shows that helping others increases our own happiness.14https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4070299/secret-to-happiness/
Donate supplies, shovel snow for an elderly neighbour, volunteer to check on vulnerable people in your area, bake some bread for family and friends, write a thank you email to someone who’s helped you, or write a letter to family and friends and tell them exactly why you love them!
- Host a Crafternoon with friends on Zoom. Decide on a holiday-themed DIY project like making a wreath or Christmas ornament and have a Zoom call to tackle it together.
- Take a digital detox and spend a whole day or night away from any type of screen. Read, do crosswords, knit, listen to an audiobook or anything else you fancy instead.
- Whip up some delicious comfort food like roast chicken and potatoes, a hearty stew, pot pie or warming soup.
- Snuggle up with your favorite cookbooks and get inspired for your next dishes to try.
- Have a themed movie marathon with your partner or flatmates. You could do a Julia Roberts night (Eat Pray Love, Pretty Women), Bridget Jones night or a romantic comedy night.
- Bake some sumptuous sweet treats like mouth-watering cakes, chewy cookies, fudgy brownies and aromatic apple crumble. Indulge in a little decadence and feel no guilt about it. Isn’t that what Winter self-care is about?
- Take some time out of your day to be mindful and present. Mindfulness has been shown to increase happiness and relieve anxiety and stress.15https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner
Spend a few minutes being still. Focus on your breath or your five senses. What are three things you can see? Three things you can hear? Smell? Taste? Feel or touch?
- Let your inner kid out and play – build a blanket fort, decorate cookies, eat cake in your pyjamas, do some colouring books, jump in the snow, make snow angels, roast some marshmallows or make s’mores over your stove or fireplace.
- Find a moment of stillness and quiet. Sit in a pool of sunlight and enjoy the warmth against your skin.
- Create a cozy oasis or nook for yourself where you can snuggle up whenever you like to drink a hot chocolate, read or just sit and contemplate life.
Fill it with soft pillows, warm blankets, throws, candles, crystals, fairy lights and plants.
- Sit in your nook and listen to an audiobook, podcast or catch up on a bit of reading.
- Enjoy a socially-distanced walk outside to appreciate the beauty of nature. Admire the reflection of the snow, the crisp air on your skin, winter sun on your back, and unique bird calls at this time.
- Nature is healing. If you can’t go outside for whatever reason – bring nature in, with indoor plants, stones, crystals, natural wood and flowers to create an indoor sanctuary.
My favourite easy-care indoor plants (even for serial brown thumbs) are Pothos, Snake plants and Spider plants which are NASA-rated as some of the most effective air purifying plants too.
- Get your creativity flowing – do some scrapbooking, colouring-in, painting, drawing, writing or even try your hand at DIY Christmas cards to send to friends and family.
Practice your photography by taking some winter themed photos everyday to see Winter through new eyes.
- Lie in bed and listen to some relaxing and soothing music.
- Order in from your favorite restaurant and give yourself a break from cooking.
- Spend some time journaling. Winter is the season for self-reflection and new beginnings.
Either free-write in your journal or try doing an annual review.
What went well this year? What didn’t? And what can you change to be 1% better next year? (remember that little increments can add up to big changes in the long-run through the power of compounding)
- Binge on your favourite Netflix series under a blanket with some popcorn and mulled wine.
- Trade full body massages with your partner. Use scented oils, turn on the fairy lights and play gentle music. Or fly solo and treat yourself to your own foot massage.
- Spend time remembering all the good memories you’ve had with friends, family or while travelling. Feel those happy emotions again.
- Join the slow food movement! Try your hand at making sauerkraut, sourdough bread, pickles, jams, yoghurt, cheese and cured meats.
- Spend some time on gratitude. Start a gratitude journal and write down 5 things you are grateful for each day.
Remember how lucky you are – to have this day, to be healthy, to have people who love and care about you, to have a roof over your head and all the wonderful experiences you’ve had in your life.
- Sit in front of a fireplace and enjoy the warmth. Sip a warm drink and stare into the dancing, crackling fire.
- Fill your house with scents that uplift, calm and relax you.
I love turning on my aromatherapy diffuser and diffusing scents of frankincense, lavender, sandalwood, bergamot and cinnamon for Winter.
But use whatever scents bring you bliss, whether that’s through room sprays, fragrant oils or scented candles.
- Take a nap and catch up on sleep, lots of sleep.
- Plan a romantic candlelit dinner and spend some quality time with your partner.
- Walk to your favorite local coffee shop and get yourself a takeaway coffee and a sweet baked treat to enjoy at home.
- If you really can’t stand wintertime – plan a holiday to somewhere warm.
Research shows that anticipation of something awesome is often even more of a happiness boost than actually experiencing it.16https://theweek.com/articles/708573/science-having-great-vacation
So put that holiday in the calendar so you have something exciting to look forward to to get you through those gloomy Winter nights.
- Learn a new skill or Winter-themed craft like knitting, quilting, crocheting or embroidery. You could knit yourself a Winter beanie, scarf or socks.
There are many online courses you can take through websites such as Skillshare, Masterclass or Udemy. Or check out Youtube for an abundance of free tutorials.
- Host a Zoom cook-a-long with your friends where you can chat and cook the same recipe together then sit down and enjoy the meal together.
- Set some personal goals for the upcoming year. Focus on what’s going to be the most fulfilling and meaningful for you and that’s going to make the most impact on your life.
- Treat yourself to a skin pamper day. The increased heating and dry air can leave Winter skin dry, flaky and needing some TLC.
Get into some dry body brushing to increase circulation and lymphatic drainage or exfoliate with a delicious coffee scrub.
Pop on a facial mask and lather on a DIY luxurious natural moisturiser to top it all off!
- Our feet do so much for us yet often get neglected. Why not give your feet some love this Winter with a foot scrub, DIY peppermint foot lotion and a foot rub?
- Do like the Swedes and have Fika or a Swedish coffee break.
It’s a daily ritual to help you slow down, take a pause and perhaps enjoy a moment connecting with colleagues and friends.
Swedes traditionally enjoy a sweet treat like a cinnamon bun or cardamon cake along with their coffee or tea, but you could just as easily have any treat or hot drink you like.
The most important part is simply pausing and taking a little time for yourself each day.
- Buy a giant puzzle and while away a few hours putting it together. It can be a very meditative and relaxing activity with a triumphant finale when you finally have the last piece in place!
- Watch a cheesy Christmas movie, feel-good comedy or romantic comedy.
- Do some decluttering – get rid of items you no longer need and clear your space, donate items from your wardrobe, tidy your spice rack.
An uncluttered space can help you feel more relaxed, creative and focused.
- Train your brain and complete a free online course in anything from emotional intelligence to Chinese history.
Big universities like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford are offering free courses through MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.
Have a browse of what’s on offer from the most popular MOOCs like EdX, Coursera, FutureLearn and Khan Academy.
- If you want to go on a mini-vacation without ever leaving the room, try some guided visualisation.
Simply let your mind wander to your happy place – whether that’s relaxing by the beach with the sun warming your back or deep in the forest seated next to a sparkling, clear lake.
Imagine the sensory details of your surroundings and really try to bring it to life. What can you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?
Enjoy your surroundings for as long as you like then come back when you are ready – refreshed and relaxed.
- Try simmering spices or stovetop potpourri to infuse your house with Christmas smells.
Simply combine orange peel, star anise, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and ginger in a pot of simmering water, and let the fragrance drift throughout the house.
- Tune into your body-mind connection with a good stretch, pilates or yoga.
Turn up the heating and try some Bikram yoga via virtual classes or Youtube to get your sweat on.
Your Next Steps
Now that you have a big list of Winter self-care ideas to try, put them into action by selecting your favorites and scheduling them into your calendar or self-care planner.
Remember it’s important to make time for self-care, otherwise the time may never materialise!
Winter Self-Care Challenge – Free Printable!
I’ve created a 30 Day Winter Self-care Challenge to get you started so you have no excuses!
It includes some of my favorite, simple, at home Winter self-care activities from the above list of ideas.
Download the pdf by entering your details below, print it out and do one self-care activity a day for 30 days.
You can do them in any order you like. If don’t remember what an activity involves, don’t forget to look it up in the list above.
Mark each one off as you go for a sweet, sweet sense of accomplishment.
And while you’re at it, why not challenge a friend to do it with you? That way, you’ll be able to keep each other motivated and accountable booyah! *virtual high five*.
Did you enjoy this list? What are some of your favorite Winter self-care activities? Share them in the comments below!