Dr Hilary Jones Top Tips to Stay Connected this Winter


Staying connected through social contact and taking care of our physical and mental health plays a crucial part in our wellbeing. With the COVID pandemic and winter upon us, it’s more important than ever that we take initiative, put our health at the forefront and stay connected. Here are my top tips:

  1. Get out and about – embrace nature and alert your senses to the world around you
  2. Listen out for others – pick up the phone and stay connected with friends and family – now is the prime time to keep an eye out on loved ones and their health
  3. Support the community – be aware of local events and volunteering opportunities, and don’t forget to check in on your neighbours
  4. Stay active – physically and mentally – take control of your health, whether it be by going  for a walk/run, an online fitness class with Mr Motivator, or testing your brain with some mental stimulation
  5. Look after yourself – from movie marathons to meditation, invest in some ‘me’ time. And don’t forget to get regular health check ups, either in person or online


Embrace nature

The clocks have changed, and your warm bed may seem more inviting than the cold outside – but connecting with nature and the outdoors has been shown to boost physical, mental and emotional health. Rich experiences await if we engage with our senses, creating memories that will stay with us forever.

TIP: Try to muster the energy to get yourself out of bed, throw on a warm winter coat and some wellies, and embrace the great outdoors. Whether you take a more active approach such as going for a hike, or would prefer to sit on a bench watching the world go by, absorb the senses to feel connected with nature and the world around you – smell the air, listen to the breeze, touch the grass.




Communicate with loved ones

Christmas is a time to stay connected with family and friends – whether it be at the dinner table, a cracker joke or family sing songs. Communicating with others can help keep our spirits up, feel less isolated and enables us to make new memories, and reminisce on old ones. Christmas also presents the opportunity to check in on the health of your loved ones who you may not have seen in a while. Look out for changes – for example being asked to repeat yourself, which may indicate hearing loss, or feelings of lethargy and weakness, which may indicate type 2 diabetes.

TIP: The festive season is about being with the people you love, so take the time to speak with those close to you, either in person or by using video calls such as Zoom, Facebook or WhatsApp, or even just a traditional phone call. Be attentive to any deterioration in your loved ones’ health – you are much more likely to notice any changes than they are, especially if you haven’t seen them for a while. If you notice your family member or friend is having difficulty following the conversation, suggest they get their hearing checked by booking in for a free hearing test.


Support the local community

During the pandemic and wintertime, people are spending more time at home and are at their most vulnerable, so supporting those around you is key. You may have neighbours who are shielding, self-isolating or physically distancing, so just saying hello or offering your assistance during this time can make a big difference and make them feel less alone. Also think about supporting local businesses – including cafes, shops, and restaurants. Many have reopened after being closed for several months, so making a purchase with them will go a long way.

Tip: The simplest thing everyone can do is check in with our neighbours. You could knock on their door to just say hello (at a safe distance), post them a note or give them a call letting them know you can help. They may need assistance with shopping, advice on local community groups or even just a chat. If you want to go that step further, why not volunteer with your local support group? Take a look at Volunteering Matters, British Red Cross and Helpforce Assist for more information.

Stay physically and mentally active

The festive season, along with COVID restrictions may have made you feel sluggish and unmotivated to do any exercise – but physical activity puts you in touch with your body and its capabilities. And it isn’t just physical health that is important, mental activities can focus your attention to the present, and improve your brain health. Sound-based brain training for example, can help stimulate the mind and alert you to the world around you.

TIP: Taking a stroll or going for a run outside can boost levels of vitamin D which has important immune functions to help fight infections. If you can only exercise indoors, there are endless fitness classes you can stream on platforms such as YouTube, Better Org and Peloton. Fancy a short but intense workout? Try an online HIIT class, or if you want something a bit more chilled out, have a go at yoga, which can especially help if you have been sat at a desk all day. Who knows – you could be the next Joe Wicks or Mr Motivator!

Mentally, challenge your brain by engaging in activities such as board games, card games and brain training apps. Scrabble anyone?!

Look after yourself

The festive season can often take its toll – and may leave many of us feeling overwhelmed and anxious, so it is really important to practise self-care and look after ourselves, to protect our own mental health and wellbeing. Your health may also have taken a backseat during the pandemic, and you may not have had your regular health checks, such as getting your hearing or eyes tested, or going to the dentist, however it is important to take the initiative and make sure your health is a top priority.

TIP: Take some time for yourself and zone out by listening to an audiobook, doing some mindful meditation or by watching a movie on the sofa. Sticking to a regular routine, sleeping for at least eight hours a night, reducing screen time and eating healthily are other ways to help you feel more refreshed and alert.

Keep your health in order by getting regular check-ups. If you are unable to leave the house, try online health tests such as Hidden Hearing’s 5-minute online hearing test, available at www.hiddenhearing.co.uk.