How to beat the winter blues and stay motivated in the workplace

How to give the winter blues the red card

Motivation and fun

5 February 2019

One in 15 people in the UK experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the sunlight-scarce days of winter. And for small business owners, anything affecting your mood can have a knock-on effect on your performance and your business.

At AXA, we think it’s important to keep conversations about mental health in the spotlight, no matter how dark the weather gets outside.

That’s why we’ve rounded up some information and tips to help boost your mood and productivity levels in the workplace. That way you can give the winter blues the red card and give the green light to positive mental health.

Strip your morning of stress

Getting out the door in the morning can be stressful. But given that your morning sets up the success of your day, it could be a good idea to review the tasks that slow down your morning routine, or cut them out completely. Why not get ahead of the game by organising next day’s clothes or preparing your lunch in advance to save some precious minutes? Life is hectic enough as it is, so a bit of forward planning could help you start your day off with your best foot forward.

Decorate your office with plants

Not only do plants reduce carbon dioxide and pollutant levels, they lower air temperatures, keep airborne dust to a minimum and can even help boost your productivity levels. From low-maintenance plants such as cacti to aloe and peace lily, it’s easy making your office greener. Plus, the added burst of colour will act as a welcome distraction from the gloomy weather outside.  

Be a goal-setter

Goal-setting isn’t just for the first two aspirational weeks of the new year. Setting regular goals in the winter can help ward off symptoms of seasonal affective disorder too. Whether it’s ticking a set number of tasks off your to-do list each day or enrolling on a training course to make your skillset stand out, working towards goals can result in a healthy dose of accomplishment while keeping your mind active over the dark winter months.

Be a social butterfly

We get it – leaving the comfort of your cosy home or office can be the last thing you want to do when it’s freezing outside. But given that socialising is extremely important to good mental and physical health, making that extra effort could help in the battle to banish the winter blues. If you have staff, consider creating comfortable spaces where colleagues can chat on their break. And make sure to keep your good mood topped up by meeting friends and family as often as you can.

Get outdoors

Do you want to avoid feeling down in the dumps in the dark winter months? Then keeping active should be among your top priorities. But this doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym every day. Simply ditching desk-dining for a lunchtime stroll could see you reap rewards – especially as a walk in the middle of the day can be as helpful as light therapy when it comes to combatting winter blues. Plus, getting your blood pumping more often won’t just keep your mind and body healthier, it could bolster your immune system too, helping you avoid catching the dreaded cold.

Let there be light (boxes)

When sunlight enters the eye, messages are passed to the part of the brain that controls our mood, appetite, temperature and sleep. As daylight hours dwindle in winter, the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin slows, which leads to symptoms of SAD. In fact, the dark days of January (and Blighty’s winter weather in general) can wreak havoc on our mental health, with 57% of adults stating that their overall mood is worse in winter season than summer.

By simulating sunlight, just 30 minutes of light box therapy can trigger the production of mood-boosting hormones – a useful tool in the battle against the winter blues. Feeling a little in the dark when it comes to light boxes? Take a read of’s guide for some illuminating tips on how to choose a light box that’s best for you.

Have a happy diet

It’s only natural to want to feast on carb-heavy goodies when cold weather hits. But given that carb-rich food promotes the production of feel-good hormone serotonin, those with SAD may find themselves with stronger cravings thanks to their body’s mood-boosting instincts. However, all carbs are not created equal. And relying on simple carbohydrates, such as white bread and cakes, can lead to sugar crashes wreaking havoc on your mood. Instead, balance your carb cravings with a diet filled with foods rich in vitamins, protein and amino acids. And as a general rule of thumb, the more colourful your 5-a-day, the better.

Staying motivated in the dark winter months can be tough. But whether it’s maintaining a balanced diet, being more active more often or making time for social activities with friends and families, there are plenty of ways you can alter your lifestyle to keep your mood and drive topped up. But remember, if your symptoms become so severe that they impact your everyday life, seek medical advice.

Work hard, insure easy

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit easier. From helping you tailor your policy to your unique business needs, to taking the guesswork out of finding business insurance, find out what we’re doing to help small businesses.