• It's cold, dark, and motivation can be low – but this is an important time to look after yourself.

  • Personal trainer Elliot Wise offers his 7-step plan to beating the winter blues

  • If you need support, we have therapists available to help you here

When the winter blues hit, they hit hard. Here are some simple tricks to relight that fire in your belly and get you hitting 2023 in a great frame of mind.

1. Don't wait until the new year to start

I personally believe there is no better way to relax mentally than physically challenging yourself, whatever that looks like for you. Hard physical exercise has two blues-busting effects. Firstly, pushing yourself to the edge of your ability physically has far less consequence than doing the same mentally (the latter of which is definitely not advisable).

But when you physically push yourself as hard as you can, everything else that comes your way seems a little bit easier. As a result, you effectively set your own benchmark for stress tolerance, which can be incredibly powerful during these gloomy winter months.

Secondly, when you become physically fitter, stronger and healthier you will feel better in every way. 

2. Go for walk outside, come rain, shine (or snow) 

I know this one doesn't sound very appealing, but hear me out. During the winter months, it's too easy to get stuck into the same old routine of get up, go to work, come home and go to bed. Many people just go into hibernation mode and try to ride it out – but these people probably suffer the worst from the winter blues.

You need to do something to break up the monotony and routine that winter can bring. Just because it's a bit wet outside, don't think of this as an excuse to stay indoors. Put your wellies on and get outside. There's something that feels exciting and adventurous about going out for a walk in the wind and rain.

3. Try some food swaps that will nourish you 

When the weather is colder and darker, it can be more tempting to reach for certain foods, even if they don't make us feel our best. 

Try swapping out takeaways or other foods that aren't nourishing you for other winter comfort foods like stews, roasts, jacket potatoes and casseroles. Cooked in the right way, these can be some of the tastiest, healthiest, and heartwarming meals you can have.

4. Take action

Winter tends to be a time for introspection and reflection on the past year. This can be a healthy exercise in itself, but if you find yourself feeling low when you review the year, it's time to take action. Sitting around beating yourself up won't get you anywhere.

Even if it's in small steps, taking action when you feel frustrated will help. Even welcoming that frustration can be a helpful fuel source to motivate personal change. 

5. Turn your phone off

Rather than watching other people experience the joys and wonders that life offers on social media, turn off your phone and do it yourself. 

Social media platforms are designed to be addictive, we all know this. So don't allow yourself to be pulled in and spend hours mindlessly scrolling your way through winter.

6. Take some baby steps

Now your phone is off, and you've got some spare time, why don't you use this winter to do something productive? Making process towards anything will make you feel better than progressing at nothing.

Our brains love progressing towards a goal – no matter how big or small. So, make it easy for yourself and set yourself a series of micro-goals to work towards. Even if it's something as simple as picking up that book that's been sat on the coffee table all year and reading the first five pages. Then the next 10 pages. Then 20. Then a whole chapter. Slowly work your way up and you'll be amazed at how much you can achieve and just how great it feels.

7. Get something fun in the diary

Simply having something to look forward to in the calendar can stop the guilt of not making any progress. Yes, making progress towards something that actively benefits your life is preferable, but there will be times where you just need something to look forward to.

Having a short break, a gig, a night out – whatever it might be – to "work towards" can have the same effect and satiate that part of your brain that wants progress. So don't let winter become a seemingly endless abyss and get some fun stuff in the dairy.

I hope you'll found these simple tips helpful. Of course, they might not work for everyone, but I know I have used these little tricks to keep the winter blues at bay. 

Elliot Wise is a personal trainer and the founder of Limitless Mentoring, an entrepreneurial skills programme for aspiring business leaders

Further reading

Running helps me manage anxiety: could it help you too?

7 things to make you feel like your younger self

Think alcohol sets you free? It might be time to think again

The importance of integrating movement into daily life

5 New Year's resolutions to support a healthy relationship with food