5 Mental Health Tips to Survive Dreary February

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Feb 20, 2024
5 Mental Health Tips to Survive Dreary February

Despite the groundhog's prediction, winter lingers in shades of snow outside my window. Their soft pillows decorate the earth with grace, truth, and purity. Though beautiful, with it comes the blues we often try to avoid. 

Living in Ohio, I've learned to appreciate every season. That doesn't mean I like or enjoy the cold months, but it helps me to remember that there's a time and purpose for everything under the Heavens. 

As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV) writes: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace". 

The weather might not be ideal, but here are five mental health tips to survive February's dreariness:

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/John Normile/Stringer

couple on winter date ice skating in snow

1. Get Outside

As much as it pains me to write this, getting outside during the winter months is essential to our overall well-being. While it might be frigid, even a 5-10 minute walk outside can help reduce stress, increase vitamin C and D intake, and lead to being happier. Don't believe me? I was in denial, too, until I read the facts. 

According to the University of California (2023), nature can help us improve our thinking, reasoning, and other mental abilities, physical wellness, and mental health. Vivian Manning-Schaffel, a writer for NBC's Better by Today, further claims: "Though the urge to shelter in place is strong, it’s much better for your mental and physical health if you put on (what feels like) all of your clothes and go outside anyway." Isn't that the truth?

Going outside when temperatures are below zero isn't always ideal or enjoyable. However, scientific studies reveal pressing beyond one's comfort zone in this realm could reap bountiful benefits. Not only will natural sunlight increase serotonin (a neurotransmitter that can help boost your mood), but it will help achieve our daily need for light. This controls and impacts our energy levels, alertness, mood, and cognitive functioning.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/simonkr

woman exercising

2. Try Something New

While getting outside when it's cold can be a challenge, one thing I've found that helps encourage that behavior is trying something new. This could be as simple as hiking at a new park, exploring a new trail, or starting a running plan. Having the right clothing and dressing in layers can also help you be prepared for inclement weather and changing temperatures. 

For example, this past weekend my husband (Ben) and I planned a getaway trip to Lexington, Kentucky. We stayed in an Airbnb that was within walking distance of most of the things we wanted to do, and though it was cold, this encouraged us to get outside. Not only did we save on gas, but we walked to and from multiple places and tried some new activities. 

Splitting up your time and exposure to the outdoors can also be more beneficial than attempting to spend 3 hours straight in twenty-below temperatures. As humans, our attention spans tend to last around 15 minutes. As a teacher, this is why switching activities every 10-20 minutes or so can help retain information and create focus. 

On Saturday, Ben and I started our day with a new workout class. We got a free class at a gym and tried strength yoga. We then walked to Lexington Opera House, where we watched Come From Away, and took a leisurely walk back. After a relaxing evening of dance lessons and a board game cafe, we'd gotten our daily indoor and outdoor activities. When we saw that Sunday was warmer, we took a Bungee workout class and an hour hike. Trying something new, especially in the outdoors, ebbs and flows. What matters is that you're willing to try.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jonathan Borba

Family sitting on their couch

3. Prioritize Relationships

February is home to Valentine's Day. A holiday many love, and others hate. Prioritizing relationships, however, is something we should strive for every day of the year. On February 13th, 2024, I lost my half-brother Ryan. His death made me realize that while relationships are a two-way street, it's important to work on them while we have the time. 

As Christians, we're called to love God and love others. This is the sum of the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God and commended to us today. Genesis 2:18 (NIV) also tells us, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” We were created for companionship. This isn't exclusive to romantic or platonic relationships. It applies to all.  

Proverbs 17:17 reminds us for this reason that relationships can help us get through hard times: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (NIV). It's the same reason why a cord of three strands isn't easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12), and where two or three gather in His name, there He is also (Matthew 18:20). 

If I could encourage you to do one selfless act of kindness during February, it would be to spend time with those you love... and those you don't. Go beyond what's comfortable and extend a helping hand to those in need. Sometimes those hardest to love share our last name, but that doesn't mean they're any less needing or deserving of our empathy and compassion. 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/g-stockstudio

woman reading a book

4. Take Care of Yourself

A common misconception around Christian mental health is that caring for yourself isn't important. I've heard it said numerous times that self-care is selfish, but nothing is further from the truth. God tells us that our bodies are temples of the Lord. He desires us to care for ourselves not only spiritually, but physically, mentally, and socially, as well. 

We're whole-body creations. Just as a foot is useless without a hand, and a head is useless without a body, we all have a role to play in the Church, and with each other. We can't contribute if we're in denial of caring for ourselves. 

Especially during the winter, don't forget to tend to your garden—the garden of your life that God grows. Plant seeds. Let the rain fall. And watch God bring something beautiful forth. 

Self-care this season can look as simple as taking a walk, making time to do something enjoyable each day, taking a relaxing bath, or reading a good book. 

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

business woman praying for better days ahead

5. Try the Five-a-Day Rule

The final tip for taking care of your mental health this February ends with a challenge. I call it the five-a-day rule: five minutes a day of praying, meditating, and journaling. While this method can happen in numerous ways and lengths, I've found that five minutes is a good start. 

What I'm proposing is this: Set aside five minutes to intentionally pray, five minutes to purposefully meditate on God's Word, and five minutes to journal and reflect on His presence for a total of 15 minutes. You can break this exercise up throughout the day however you best see fit. 

I like to start or end my day with prayer (and of course, you're allowed to do both!). Permitting myself to focus for merely five minutes helps reduce the stress that I should be doing more. It also reduces an all-or-nothing mindset. Before or after dinner, I like to meditate and journal what God is teaching me in my study time with Him. Note that time spent reading the Scriptures isn't included here. 

The five-a-day rule isn't meant to be a prescription or a substitute for reading your Bible. It's meant to support how you connect with God and help loosen any legalistic tendencies you might have in your relationship with Him.  

What tip are you looking forward to trying this month? 

Agape. Amber

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.

Originally published Tuesday, 20 February 2024.