Keep Your Mental Health Up Over Winter

By Michael Botur

Winter worsens our mental health for lots of reasons – there’s no daylight after work, it’s challenging to do washing or exercise, and Winston Peters is Acting Prime Minister. There are a few simple and shame-free instructions you can follow, though, to get your moods in a good place, and it all starts with owning your moods.

Be like my liberal pinko friends and use phrases like “I’m anxious” or “I’m worried” or “Recently I’ve been unhappy… .”

Don’t tell people to “Swallow some concrete pills” or “Sack it up.” Instead, try saying these sorts of things to people you care about:

  • Tell me how you feel about that.
  • Are you eating and exercising right?
  • I’m here to listen whenever you want to share.

If you are having low moods every day, phoning Lifeline is a good start and may lead to your doctor helping out (phone 0800LIFELINE or text ‘Help’ to 4357).

And now, some winter mood-lifting advice for you:


Cross That River

You won’t find spiritual satisfaction by binge-watching Lightbox. Instead, doing something as simple as walking a loop of a cul-de-sac you’ve never been down will help you feel happy. In the words of Anthony Bourdain, who emerged from a druggy kitchen in his 40s then completely revolutionised his life, “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river.”


Have muddy mini-adventures.

In healthy doses, risky activities can stimulate brain function and relationships or reduce symptoms of depression. You should find going into the wilderness and getting wet and muddy is wholesome, cheap, and replenishing. I personally go hiking and mountain-biking. There is even an entire therapeutic specialty around this: Adventure Therapy.


Don’t dwell online (unless you’re on

Reading vicious whiny hipster rants on The Spinoff may seem like therapeutic problem-sharing, but sitting alone in one place staring at a bright screen late into the night is bad for your sleep, and bad sleep means bad moods. Piles of evidence tells us that face-to-face human contact is better for keeping depression away than lurking online. Find someone today to share a cuppa.


Depression isn’t just a bad day

Head to or Both websites offer checklists helping you distinguish the fleeting disgruntlement of having your short story rejected by Landfall from clinical depression which requires a medical intervention.


Walking around the block isn’t dorky

Kids and teens think walking is wack and driving is dope. They’ve got it all backwards, though: walk around the block and you’ll feel less anxious about your neighbourhood, your brain will release delightful hormones, your blood pressure will ease, and you’ll receive mental stimulation including ideas for excellent NZMEcolumns.

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