Our essential guide to your winter wellness and happiness: 5 top tips
Frosty mornings, sprinklings of snow and shorter day length have reminded us that winter is most definitely here. Whether you’re a lover or hater or somewhere in between, most of us need a boost to get us through the colder months.
Many people can feel a little “off” as the cold weather continues through the season. As Health Coaches, we see the direct impact on how people feel in the winter months. Our clients will often ask questions such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Why do I feel so low?” For most of us, this can be attributed to the shorter day length, lack of sunshine and colder, damp weather.
We are governed by circadian rhythms (our body’s natural clock) that help regulate important functions including sleep/wake cycles, mood, hormones and our immune system. Our circadian rhythms can be thrown off during the winter and have a real impact on all these functions, resulting in sub-optima energy and vitality.
Winter months affect us all in a variety of ways - socially, physically and mentally. So we have put together our essential guide to helping you to feel your best and embrace the winter!
1. BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
It’s very common for many of us to experience more colds and viruses over the winter months. With this in mind embrace being forewarned so you can be forearmed! From a nutrition point of view, batch cooking homemade broths, soups and stews are a fabulous way to get extra vegetables (and antioxidants) into your diet and then you don’t have to think about cooking when you’re too tired. Aim to eat seasonally and buy local, as this will help you get the immune boosting nutrients you need at this time of year.
Prioritising rest and good sleep habits is also essential for your immune system to work optimally. This can be a challenge during the festive season so consider setting some boundaries to prevent too many late nights and interrupted sleep.
2. NOURISH YOUR HAIR & SKIN
Both our hair and nails can become dry in the winter and extra care can go a long way. Fuel your hair growth and repair any damage with key nutrients such as biotin - think eggs, salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Chapped lips, dry hands, reddened cheeks and noses can indicate fragile and irritated skin. Also be mindful of exposure to central heating, which can be dehydrating for the skin. From a topical point of view, it’s important to choose products which contain natural ingredients and are soothing. Use nourishing natural and organic balms (preferably with calendula) and your skin will thank you. Foods rich in omega 3 oils such as salmon, mackerel and walnuts will all help to keep your skin in tip top condition.
3. TOP UP YOUR VITAMIN D
As daylight dwindles, we are exposed to much less direct sunlight and this impacts our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D can be obtained from direct sunlight, diet or supplementation but for many of us, sunlight is the biggest contributor to Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin following exposure to ultraviolet B radiation, so when sunlight levels are low, we need to think about how to top up our Vitamin D levels. It is such an essential vitamin and is actually thought to be more of a multifunctional hormone because it works so hard in many of our essential body systems including bones, immune system and energy production.
Give your summer stores a helping hand by bringing good sources into your diet, such as wild sustainable mackerel, mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light and good quality eggs. If you’re concerned about your levels and are thinking about taking a supplement, always consult with a nutrition/health practitioner who will be able to advise on the best formulation for you.
4. KEEP ACTIVE
When it’s cold and wet outside, let’s face it, even the most outdoorsy of us have to push ourselves a little harder to be motivated to spend time outside to exercise. The key to staying active during the winter is to set yourself weekly goals with a contingency plan if it’s weather dependent. Running in the rain can be exhilarating for some people, whilst indoor yoga can be more appealing to others. Find what works for you, but try to get some outdoor activity time if you can. Getting outside during the daylight hours will help to lift your mood and encourage better sleep. Staying active in general during these months will help produce the feel good neurotransmitters that will go towards achieving both mental and physical health.
5. STAY CONNECTED
Connecting to other humans (social connection) is a pillar of lifestyle medicine. As humans, we are wired to connect, and a connection or disconnection can affect our health positively or negatively. There is significant evidence that feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health (Martino et al. 2017).
Find ways in which to connect to the people you love and love spending time with. It’s true it may take more effort during the winter months, but scheduling in time to chat, catching up for a coffee or better still a walk in nature, will do wonders for your overall wellness.