British Summer Time (BST) has ended. It gets dark before the end of the day. The temperature has dropped. For many of us, this time of year can be a struggle, and all we want to do is curl up in bed instead of having to face another dark and dreary day. But it doesn’t need to be this way. There are many ways that we can cope with the winter months by pursuing a healthier and happier lifestyle.
We might not immediately think of our phones when we think of taking care of ourselves, however there are ways that we can use the devices we have to hand to help us. We’ll be discussing three ways that you can use your smartphones and/or other smart devices to help you to cope with the winter blues in practical and achievable ways.
Exercise is probably the last thing you’ll feel like doing when it’s cold and grey outside, however, it has far too many health benefits to ignore, especially for dealing with winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Exercise boosts serotonin and endorphins which are neurotransmitters that regulate our moods. The release of serotonin impacts everything from our emotions to our motor skills, while endorphins help to relieve pain and stress. Exercising gives you a much-needed boost of happy brain chemicals that will make dealing with the winter months easier.
Many smartphone owners use their phones to support their health and fitness goals, and you can too. There’s a plethora of health apps to choose from on both iPhones and Android devices, and many smartphones come with a health app preinstalled. Smartwatches and other fitness trackers have taken the world by storm as well, and more of us than ever before have opted for one of these tech wearables. If you have one, start by using it to track your steps and/or workouts.
The sense of pride that you’ll feel when you achieve your goals coupled with the serotonin and endorphins boost will help you to take on the winter. If you need some guidance with your workouts, you can also use apps to help you. There are many different fitness apps to choose from that can give you inspiration for exercises, and many of them are free.
If you’re finding the winter months hard, a good bedtime routine can help, and you can create this by managing how you use your smartphone when it’s getting late. If you’re prone to using your phone late in the evening or at night, try using a Do Not Disturb setting an hour before you want to go to sleep, so you don’t get distracted by people messaging you. On Android, this is done by either swiping down from the top of your screen and tapping Do Not Disturb, or you can use the Google Assistant to silence your phone. On an iPhone, you can either go to Settings > Do Not Disturb to turn on Do Not Disturb or set up a schedule, or you can go to the Control Centre and hold down the crescent moon symbol to adjust your Do Not Disturb settings.
If you have an Android device with Android 10 and above, you can set up Digital Wellbeing to manage how you spend time on your phone. To access Digital Wellbeing, go to Settings and then turn on Show icon in the app list. Once you have entered your details to set it up, you can schedule changes to help you to get ready to sleep by dimming your device’s display and temporarily stopping notifications until the morning when you want to see them. You can do this by going to the Wind Down setting.
If you still want to use your smartphone just before going to sleep, you might also want to consider enabling Dark Mode. This is a colour scheme on devices which uses light-coloured text, icons and other interface elements on a dark background, which is an inversion of the default colour scheme on the majority of smartphones. Some people find that this colour scheme is less severe on the eyes, which could help you to get a better night’s sleep. On Android devices, you can make your phone’s display monochrome (Grayscale) and activate Night Light, which makes your display’s colours warmer with less of a glare. To do this on an iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. From here, you can adjust your display’s colours.
For many of us, journaling is evocative of our childhoods when we kept diaries to record the turmoil of our lives at school. Friendship fallouts and interactions with our crushes were the be-all and end-all of our lives at that time, and for a lot of us, writing down the drama of the day was a way for us to make sense of it. Journaling isn’t just for children though. As adults, we can return to recording our thoughts and feelings to help us with a variety of problems that we may be facing. According to various research into journaling, it can boost your mood, enhance your wellbeing, reduce symptoms of depression and improve your memory over time.
While some of us might be partial to using the traditional medium of pen and paper to record our thoughts, many of us will be used to using our phones instead, as they’re usually available to hand and writing by hand isn’t for everyone. You can use the default app for note taking that comes with all new smartphones, or you can use an app created especially for journaling. Some apps you could try are Day One (available on iOS), Journey (available on iOS and Android) and Five Minute Journal (available on iOS and Android).
Cover image by Daniel Bowman on Unsplash