Mental Health Matters: Nic Goddard

Making sure we spend some time outside every day during daylight hours helps us to stay active.

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The autumn equinox was on September 23 this year – the day when the day and night are at equal lengths and the start of the darkest months of the year.

For many people the ‘winter blues’ are about to kick in and while for some the bright lights and razzle dazzle of the ‘party season’ ahead will keep spirits high through the coming months, for others that simply adds more reasons to feel low.

In Lochaber, Argyll and the Islands we live in a seasonal hotspot destination – every autumn there is a feeling of things closing down as the summer visitors reduce and many things seem to shut for the winter.

Coupled with the impact on our bodies of reduced natural light it is not surprising that self care and a bit of extra attention to our wellbeing might be in order at this time of year.

Here are five seasonal tips based on the five ways to wellbeing for approaching this autumn.

• Get outside – being physically active is more challenging and possibly even more important at this time of year.

The reduction in sunlight means our internal body clocks find it trickier to regulate and this can affect our sleep patterns and the hormones which impact on our moods.

In addition to this, the lack of sunlight can mean we struggle to maintain vitamin D levels.

Making sure we spend some time outside every day during daylight hours helps us to stay active whether it is walking to the end of the garden or heading out for a run, cycle or brisk walk around the park.

• Give to others – It can feel really challenging to do something for other people when you are struggling yourself but we all have ways to give something and the feel good factor of helping others means it is a double win.

Have a think about what you are rich in and how you could share that with others.

That could be a donation to a charity or sponsoring someone, it could be sharing your skills, offering your time as a volunteer, giving someone a lift, picking up some
shopping for a friend or neighbour, or maybe a random act of kindness such as giving a compliment to a stranger, picking up litter or spending an hour leaving nice comments on social media.

• Connect with other people – It is really tempting as the weather turns colder and the nights draw in to retreat into your cocoon and hibernate for the winter.

But we humans are social animals and we are at our best when interacting with others, making connections and being together.

Take advantage of everyone being a little less busy with holidays, gardening, seasonal
jobs and seek out ways to get together with friends or opportunities to make new ones this autumn.

• Learn something new – autumn is the perfect time to go ‘back to school’ no matter how old you are.

From evening classes to online learning. Whether it is picking up a new qualification,
learning a new language in preparation of next years summer holiday or making a start on Christmas gifts by brushing up your crafting skills there are opportunities everywhere and it is never too late to learn something new.

• Practice mindfulness – The change in the season is an ideal time to take note of the present moment.

From watching the leaves on the trees change colour and fall to the ground to spotting
migrating birds coming and going, to noting the temperature changes and spectacular sunrises and sunsets of this time of year.

Check out some mindfulness apps or tips online for ideas or get involved in a daily activity like Inktober where you spend some time every day drawing something inspired by a daily prompt.

Try to pay attention to the here and now and recognise the magic of the moment you are in as it happens.