Skip to content

How to stay positive and motivated during the dark winter months

With the dark, cold winter months now upon us, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Dr Kerry Rees (pictured below), has words of advice for anyone who may struggle to stay positive and motivated:

Now that the nights have drawn in and the long dark winter months are stretching out in front of us, it’s not uncommon to feel more lethargic and less motivated than we did during summer time.

You may have found, for instance, that getting out of bed in the mornings takes a little bit longer, or you’d give anything for a bit of hot sun on your back to help raise your spirits.

Well, while we can’t speed up time, we can take some simple steps to boost our mood as we wait for spring and summer to return.

Mindset and perceptions:

Beliefs influence how we feel and behave – at all times, not just through the winter. That means how we frame events or challenges influences how we react.

Kerry John Rees

To combat that, it helps to try and focus on the positives. So, consider dark nights as an opportunity to be cosy. Lamps or candles help produce a calm, relaxed atmosphere, and shawls or blankets facilitate a cosy feeling. 

Feeling in control:

As a general rule, people avoid feelings of anxiety when events are within their control. If you’re feeling anxious during the winter – or at any time in the year, for that matter – you may find that it helps to plan events, such as film nights, dinner parties or going to watch sporting fixtures played at this time of year with friends.

Having something to look forward to helps people stay engaged and promotes positive emotions and optimism. You may also find it helps to maintain a routine, especially at bedtime. 

Stay active:

It’s not uncommon to want to stay indoors at all times when it’s cold and dark outside.

However, for psychological and physical reasons, it is important to try and stay active during the winter.

So, try and stay engaged, perhaps by developing a new skill, reading a book, joining a class, or perhaps meeting up with family and friends.

Contact can be difficult for some but listening to the radio can facilitate a sense of connection with others; topics discussed are stimulating and music can be uplifting. 

If possible, try and get out for a walk as often as you can, especially in natural environments. Get as much natural light as possible and move and stretch at regular intervals. And if it’s too wet to walk or run, you could always do some exercise at home (there’s lots of great content on YouTube), or head to the gym if you’re a member.

Think positive:

Some people will experience low mood during the winter. For every negative thought think of a positive thought. Be optimistic.

You could look at pictures of sunny days and holiday snaps. Many TV shows are popular because they are set in sunny locations, such as Death in Paradise. 

For some people, the effects of the long dark night just mean very little more than it takes them a bit more effort to get out of bed in the mornings.

However, some people may develop seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which can impact their lives throughout the day, causing a persistent low mood, feelings of despair and lack of pleasure in activities they’d normally enjoy.

If you think that may apply to you, it’s important to be proactive by consulting a GP and looking at advice provided by the NHS and MIND.