The darker evenings are drawing in and the temperature has dropped. Winter weather can be especially tough for those of us who live with arthritis, but there are things you can do to help keep your mood, and your health, boosted during the months ahead. Even if you haven’t been a fan of winter before now, its entirely possible to warm up to it – all you need to do is shift your perspective into a more positive, embracing mindset.  

10 Top Tips to Learn to Love Winter

  1. Remind yourself of the benefits: try to get back in touch with the positives of these colder winter months. Our planet benefits from the seasons changing. Cold temperatures help to kill off disease-carrying insects, interrupt the migration of invasive species and slows the growth of nuisance vegetations (less weeding in winter!). Also, a snow coveringhelps to regulate the temperature of the earth's surface, and once that snow melts, the water helps fill rivers and reservoirs in many regions of the world 

  1. Embrace slowing down: wintertime offers the opportunity to slow down earlier in the day and make time for rest. But this doesn’t mean we should ground to a standstill by staying on the couch. Instead, we need to make sure to get out to move our bodies during daylight hours, with the chance to rest and recuperate when the sun goes down. Winter can mean warm herbal teas, a soak in a bath, a good book, relaxing music, lighting a candle for dinner, a roaring fire with a blanket, some guided meditation or, if you’re especially lucky, time spent in a sauna or getting a massage – build in these little habits or treats to ensure you’re tuning into the best sides of winter.  

  1. Get your body temperature right: people who enjoy winter tend to know how to dress for the season. Think of the Canadians! Most own snow boots and fleece-lined trousers or thermal tights. If you can afford it, invest in a warm coat or parka, jumper and socks that are made from 100 per cent wool (and don’t forget gloves, scarves or neck scarves). If money is tight, try second-hand shops and you’ll be surprised at what you can pick up. Research shows that staying warm can actually reduce the chances of developing the winter blues, so it’s definitely worth a try. Also, you can keep warm with hot drinks and food – healthy soups, casseroles, curries, bone broths and herbal teas are best.  

  1. Keep your home as warm as possible: when it comes to your home, aim to keep the temperature between 18C and 21C if possible (the lower the temperature, the easier on your wallet). For so many of us this year, energy costs are high, so try to be clever about it. Take out any winter blankets you may still have in storage and place them on your bed and on the sofa for extra comfort. Use hot water bottles/electric blankets in bed, draught excluders at your door and thick curtains to dress and insulate windows or, if it’s within budget, consider an upgrade on your insulation. Check out if you’re eligible for a free energy upgrade under the Warmer Homes Scheme. 

  1. Stay active doing something you enjoy: Physical activity helps ease pain, increase strength and flexibility, and boosts energy. Exercise increases serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) production and release. The biggest problem with physical activity is that it’s challenging when it’s cold outside, but the key is not waiting until you ‘feel like it’ because you rarely will. Even getting out for 10 or 15 minutes is better than nothing. And if that means wrapping up and braving the elements, remember that you WILL feel better afterwards. A simple walk or cycle or, indeed, even following a short online exercise programme every morning should help you to reach your quota of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, with two added strength training sessions on top of that (the recommended amount for good health). Try our online video series, Take Control with Exercise offered by chartered senior physiotherapist, Emer McAuliffe which is a specially designed exercise programme for anyone living with arthritis.  

  1. Relish winter food: A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and prevent you from putting on weight over winter. Balance craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, but also high-quality protein foods such as fish, lentils, beans, tofu, chicken, eggs or lean red meat. To keep your blood sugar stable and help curb cravings and the risk of overeating, be  sure to eat a healthy snack, such as nuts or a domino-sized piece of cheese with a handful of grapes every three to four hours. Another thing that many Irish people forget to add to their diet are lentils and chickpeas, but they are a wonderful, high fibre source of protein – brilliant to fill up on during winter as they’re so satisfying. Simply add them to soups or casseroles. If you want to eat them as a side dish, simply cook green lentils in a stock cube for something delicious and easy, or you can warm them up straight from a can if you buy the ready-to-eat version.  

  1. Find your tribe: It's been shown that socialising is good for our mental health and can also help ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events – you may not feel like going initially but you’re more than likely to be happy that you went when you get there. Many people want to avoid social situations when feeling anxious or down, but this can often make things worse. If you’re not up to evening events, then consider joining a weekly class or group - such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, attending an exercise or gym class, or a book club. It doesn’t matter what it is; the important thing is that you have something to look forward to and focus on every week or every second week. 

  1. Reconsider your relationship with alcohol: The problem with alcohol is that it’s a depressant that affects the way our brain functions. A glass or two shouldn’t be a problem, but too much and you could be facing more negative thoughts and associated emotions, in addition to poor quality sleep that leaves you tired and lethargic the next day (with less willpower when it comes to making healthy food choices too!). Our advice? Stick to one or two drinks and, ideally, only at the weekend. Instead, opt for sparkling water with lime cordial and lots of ice or, when out, try a ‘mocktail, an alcohol-free beer or a low alcohol wine, all of which are widely available in good bars and restaurants since there is a growing demand from the alcohol-free market in recent years. Find out more at Drink Aware. 

  1. Get your shots: People living with arthritis are at even greater risk of infections like the flu. Both arthritis itself, which compromises how well your body fights off infections, and certain medications used to control the disease, which can further weaken the immune system, are the reasons for this. That’s why it’s crucial that you get your flu shot and that you also practice good hand hygiene during flu season (washing hands and/or hand sanitising).  

  1. Consider vitamin D: Due to Ireland’s northerly latitude, deficiency of vitamin D can be common in the winter months. This is an important vitamin for helping to regulate our immune systems so, during winter, supplementing this with a spray or tablet could be a good idea. Alternatively, make it simple by buying fortified products, such as fortified milks and yoghurts. If you are unsure what vitamins and supplements you might benefit from, consult your medical team for advice  


Remember, telling yourself (and others) ‘I hate winter’ isn’t going to help. Instead, this year try saying to yourself, ‘I’m going to embrace winter’ and keep saying it. This will seep into your subconscious and can work to change your mood and perspective in a huge way 

Happy wintering all!