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Water + Wellness = Strength
It can be really easy to struggle with the Winter Blues, your mental health and wellness during the colder months. Not only is there the stress of the lead up to Christmas and New Year, but also the slump after all the fun and festivities have ended. There is also the anticlimax of the beginning of the year and all the pressures of keeping those well-planned resolutions!
Thankfully, there are many ways in which Water Wellness can help. Being on, in or near the water can have significant health benefits, mentally and physically, especially during winter months. Just because it’s cold outdoors, doesn’t mean water doesn’t help and you can’t do the things you enjoy.
What is the meaning of Winter Blues?
Winter Blues is a general term and isn’t something that is medically diagnosed. It is more of a feeling we can sometimes have during winter months that is usually seasonal. It can be caused by shorter days, less sunlight and stressful holidays and events that may happen during this time. According to Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert for News In Health, ‘Winter Blues are fairly common, and it’s more mild than serious. It usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time’.
To put it into perspective, during the summer months, according to research conducted by Sherri Melrose from Athabasca University, we benefit from longer sunlight hours which helps balance serotonin activity, increase melatonin production, balance circadian rhythm and increase vitamin D levels, all of which can lead to an improved emotional state.
What are the symptoms of Winter Blues?
Feeling sad or down sometimes, especially during the winter months, can be a sign of the Winter Blues. You may have trouble sleeping, feel restless, and may have a lack of motivation to get things done. In winter months, leaving home in the dark, working somewhere with limited daylight, and then returning home again in the dark, can affect most people’s dispositions.
What is the difference between Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Winter Blues, or Winter Depression, can sometimes be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is due to symptoms usually being more apparent and severe during the winter. SAD symptoms are often stronger and more persistent than the Winter Blues. They include constant low mood, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities and lacking more energy than normal.
Read more about the symptoms of SAD on Mind’s website. Consider a visit to your GP if you are concerned or worried about how you feel.
Beating the Winter Blues with Water Wellness
We’ve put together 15 Water Wellness tips to protect your wellbeing this winter. We’ve based these tips around the suggested evidence of the five ways you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing. These include being physically active, connecting with others, learning, giving and paying attention to the present moment, known as mindfulness.
Get outdoors and enjoy some sunlight
Wrap up warm and head to your favourite body of water, whether it be a river, lake, pond, pool, waterfall, fountain or ocean, to help you feel more refreshed and energised. These forms of water can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health, as well as your Winter Wellness. Their tranquillity and beauty can provide a sense of calmness and focus in an otherwise busy and hectic environment. Whilst outdoors, you can also enjoy the natural light and get some vital Vitamin D, essential for bone strength and supporting your immune system.
With the sun low in the sky, did you know that some of the best sunrises and sunsets can be seen during the winter months? Head outdoors and see if you can capture those special moments.
If it is difficult for you to get out, open a window, let some fresh air in and enjoy the natural light coming through. Another idea is if you can play YouTube through a TV, tablet or computer (or even your small phone screen), search for a beach scene or riverwalk and enjoy the scenery. Some come with some chilled-out music as well for even more relaxation.
Gain from the Blue Gym effect
Exercise is the perfect tonic to banish Winter Blues.
The Blue Gym concept adds outdoor Blue Spaces, such as along or on rivers, lakes and the sea to these physical activities. During winter, it may be a bit cold to get on or in the water but take a walk, run or cycle alongside your favourite body of water to gain some serious health benefits. Studies have shown that stronger feelings of restoration, such as feeling refreshed, revitalised, relaxed and calm, are recalled more by individuals after a visit to Blue Space environments when compared to rural/countryside environments and urban green/open spaces.
If you are unable to get to the water, do some indoor exercise next to a virtual beach or river scene on YouTube. Even better if you can, play it through the TV and exercise in front of it. Exercising indoors under bright light can help further by improving mental health, social functioning, and vitality whilst combatting symptoms of depression.
Have a treadmill, cross trainer or exercise bike at home? Play this YouTube virtual beach run for added Blue Gym effect.
Go wild swimming
If you are feeling super brave, go wild swimming with an organised cold water swimming group. This trend continues to rocket, and there is no doubt a local group close to your nearest body of safe water. Try searching Google or Facebook groups. Whilst winter might not be the best time to start this new hobby, with experienced cold water swimmers around you, the benefits from just going for a quick dip will wash away those Winter Blues.
Head to the nearest indoor pool
If wild, cold water swimming isn’t for you, take to the nearest indoor pool and benefit from swimming. Swimming research has proven to boost your mood (as with most exercise) and help manage stress. Researchers surveyed a group of swimmers immediately before and after swimming in Taiwan. Out of the 101 people surveyed, 44 reported being mildly depressed and feeling stress related to the fast-paced life. After swimming, the number of people who still reported feeling stressed decreased to just 8. While more research needs to be done in this area, the researchers conclude that swimming is a potentially powerful and quick way to relieve stress.
Swimming can also be affordable, safe, great for kids, improves your sleep, burns calories, tones muscles, builds strength and endurance, along with being great for Winter Wellness. Do we need any more reasons to go? Perhaps now is a great time to start those swimming lessons to build your confidence in the water? How about an introductory scuba diving course in the safety and warmth of an indoor pool? Give it a go!
Take frequent hot baths
There is evidence to suggest, from a 20 year Japanese observational study completed in 2020, that people who took baths three to four times a week, compared to those who took baths less than twice a week, had a 25 perfect lower risk in coronary heart disease and a 13 perfect lower risk of stroke. The researchers argued that the simple practice of taking baths, lowers blood pressure and improves blood vessel function.
A small study by Loughborough University in the UK also indicated that passive heat from a hot bath improves health, and a one-hour long hot bath can burn as many calories as a half-hour walk. There is much more research to be done in this area, but as most cultures believe in the benefits of thermal bathing, and positive changes in inflammatory responses similar to those who exercise can be seen, evidence is gathering positively.
Now where’s that bubble bath…
Catch up with others
Loneliness and isolation tend to make the effects of the Winter Blues worse. That’s why it is important to have your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you feel connected to on speed dial. We know from the pandemic that human contact and socialisation are so important to your mental health.
Finding a way to catch up, going for a walk together along the water or staying cosy in a waterside cafe is key to boosting your mood. It can also help to talk about how you feel to those you trust.
Take mindfulness to the water
With so much going on, it is important we appreciate what’s happening now, and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. Take a journal, a mindfulness book or even just a notepad or piece of paper to your local favourite body of water and begin writing your thoughts. Consider it as water Winter Wellness. It can be a great way to de-stress and train your brain to be in the moment. And being in the moment, can lead to finding calmness, focus and inner strength.
As mentioned before, a great way to try if you are unable to get to a body of water is to find some virtual water. If you can play YouTube through a TV, tablet or computer (or even your small phone screen), search for a beach scene or riverwalk and enjoy the scenery. Some come with some chilled-out music as well for even more relaxation.
This is one of our favourites:
Visit an aquarium
With more and more aquariums being open in major cities, make a day trip to your nearest one. Spend some time in its environment. Not only is it a fun, sensory and learning experience, but studies have also shown visits can have positive effects on mood, heart rate and blood pressure.
Perfect for that family day out, or just meander around on your own, at your own pace.
Treat yourself to a spa day
Spa days are the perfect picture of self-care. Take time out, either by yourself or with others, to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, detox, alleviate pain, improve confidence and gain the advantages of Water Wellness. Enjoy being submerged in crystal clear pool water. Let the steam room clear your skin, remove toxins and improve cardiovascular health. And the sauna reduces tension and sore muscles.
During the colder months, spa hotels and retreats often have some great winter spa day and overnight breaks available.
Float your Winter Blues away
Float tank therapy is a revelation that is here to stay. This therapy is a pod of water, consisting of almost 800 pounds of magnesium sulfate and Epsom salts to help you float. The benefits to be gained from a float session are incredible, including pain relief, muscle relaxation, reduced depression, decreased anxiety, induced calmness, increased focus and alleviated stress, according to Float Space in the UK.
Float tank sessions are often a more affordable option than the spa days mentioned previously.
Book a coastal Staycation, even if it’s a mini one
Most people get a lift when they have something to look forward to. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. Book a mini break somewhere on or close to the water. Start dreaming of the benefits you have to gain. How about a lodge with a hot tub instead? Perfect for that weekend break. Thinking big? Start planning that next ultimate water adventure or tick off another bucket list experience.
Make the most of winter sales or winter getaway deals during this time of year.
Volunteer at a local water activity or event
The benefits of volunteering are immense. With this act of kindness, it boosts your mood and increases your wellbeing. Start researching how you can give your time and skills to much-needed local water-related charities or water-based organisations you feel passionate about. Applying and being accepted normally takes time so start the process today.
Research a new water-related hobby
It’s always exciting to learn about something new. Why not research a new water-related hobby you can start? Maybe it’s fishing. Sailing. Flyboarding. Jet Skiing. Swimming. Kayaking. The possibilities are endless. What about a hobby you used to love and no longer do? Give yourself some positive vibes and something to look forward to.
Learn about Water Wellness and Blue Mind
Learning can increase your confidence and feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. Learn about how Water Wellness can help improve your lifestyle along with the benefits of Blue Mind through this website. Start planning how you can make the most of it in the year ahead.
Keep a healthy wellness routine
No mention of Water Wellness goes without saying that staying hydrated is super important to your overall health. Aim to drink those 6 to 8 glasses of fluid daily with hot drinks on cold days. Drinking enough is crucial to keep organs functioning properly, prevent infections, deliver nutrients, help sleep quality, as well as improve concentration and mood.
With shorter, colder days, it can feel hard to keep your normal activities going. Keep the alarm clock set at the same time, take a shower and enjoy the feeling of water on your face, head to the gym, or however you create your day, follow the same routine. It can be easy to let it slip, which can send your mental and physical health plummeting.
When the weather turns bad, your levels of serotonin dip, which increases cravings for white carbs. Don’t give in to the temptation, as it only makes you feel worse. Pasta. White bread. Deep-pan Pizza. High-fat burgers. Whilst you think they will lift your mood at the time, they are a real winter no no and will no doubt make you feel sluggish. Stay healthy and try to eat more seasonal starchy veg, such as pumpkins and parsnips, which are high-quality carbs with added vitamins, fibre and minerals.
What are your favourite ways to beat your Winter Blues? What do you struggle with most? Do you have some Winter Wellness tips? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
There is only one of you. Find your inner strength. Live your best life.
Learn more about the Six Dimensions of Water Wellness and how it can help you live your best life.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The purpose of this post is informational only. Always consult your GP or physician before making any changes to your healthcare routine.
Water + Wellness = Strength
Gill is a full-time water lover, writer and creator of Water Wellness. Whilst spending several years in Australia, she found a passion for being by or on the water whilst camping in the great outdoors.
After a recent battle of kicking cancer’s butt, she found herself realigning her important values and purpose in life. Now back living on the stunning South Coast of the UK, she is inspiring and educating others on the power of Water Wellness – a holistic lifestyle concept including emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, social and occupational dimensions, where the impact of being in, on, under or by the water during times of struggle is legendary.
When she can’t be found in a daydream near the water or bobbing on a kayak, you’ll catch her planning her next travel adventure or journaling to appreciate how great life really can be.