Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
How do you feel about winter? Do you look forward to wrapping up warm for bracing walks and then hunkering down in a cosy pub or cafe? Or do you take a “grit your teeth and just get through it” attitude, chomping through mince pies and planning your next holiday in the sun, while singing “I will survive” in the style of Leonard Cohen? Follow these tips and you can feel better than ever during the coldest season.
- Prevention is better than cure. In the UK, our winters can sometimes feel like they start in October and carry on until March. It’s a long time if you’re of the “just get through it” mentality. One of the worst parts of winter is the prevalence of cough and cold viruses, which make us feel physically and emotionally under par. Make being healthy a daily habit, rather than planning your “New Year detox” or “beach body blitz” later in the year. To maximise your chances of avoiding seasonal lurgies, build small healthy habits into your daily routine. Eat an extra portion of fruit and veg a day. Drink another glass of water. Take a good multi vitamin supplement. Studies particularly recommend Vitamin C with Zinc to support the immune system too. If your body is going to get through a series of mulled wine and mince pie evenings, you need to give it a fighting chance. As soon as you feel so much as a sniffle coming on, start taking echinacea tincture or the tablets immediately. Studies show that the sooner you start taking it, the more effective it will be.
- Move! And preferably outside, in the daylight. We naturally tend to exercise less during the winter months, and this, combined with a lack of sunlight, can make us feel sluggish and mess with the body’s biorhythms. Again, this is a habit, but try and take a walk at lunchtime every day (or get off your form of transport on your way to work earlier if lunchtime isn’t good for you). However you carve the time out, make sure you get at least 30 minutes outside activity every day. It will really boost your mood, and keep your vitamin D levels (which become depleted during the winter months) topped up. Due to the fact that we’re nervous of sitting in the sun much anymore due to the prevalence of skin cancer many of us aren’t getting enough exposure and manufacturing Vitamin D for ourselves so top up the reserves in winter when the sun is weaker and it will stand you in good stead.
- Mood: If you often feel low during the winter months despite eating well and keeping active, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or even a mild version of it which affects your sleep patterns and can make you feel sluggish. This website www.sad.org.uk has some great tips and advice as does this article written by Alisa Nestmaven who is a yogi and health enthusiast. You can read her article here: https://www.nestmaven.com/sleep/seasonal-affective-disorder/ She also mentions the use of a light box and how that can help. I purchased mine from www.lumie.com which really makes a difference to me.
- Put Christmas in its place. Whatever the High St retailers might like us to think, Christmas only lasts for a couple of weeks, but it can sometimes feel as though it takes over the whole season. Whether you love or hate the festivities, try and keep a sense of perspective. No wonder it can feel like winter is dragging, if you associate the whole season with Christmas. Become hyper aware of what’s going on around you. Really notice the evolving landscape and wildlife. The season of winter is there for a reason – without it there would be no spring or summer. Enjoy the process.
- Learn some stress reduction techniques. There are lots of stressful peaks during this time – the run-up to Christmas, spending time with people you might not normally choose to, dealing with your financial situation in January if you’ve overspent in December, going back to work after time off, etc, etc. When your nerves are frayed, you need to pull something out of the bag that can instantly calm you. Try the “three minute breathing space” technique that will help you feel more grounded and at peace. Here is a good description from the Mindfulness in Action website: www.mindfulnessinaction.co.uk/2013/05/22/take-a-breathing-space. It can help to practice this regularly, so when you’re tempted to clobber your Aunt Muriel over the head for yet another insensitive remark, you can easily slip into a calmer zone.
- Pace yourself. Winter is often a social time of year, with Christmas and New Year the apex of excess in terms of drinking and eating for many people. With this in mind, don’t feel obliged to accept every invite to every gathering. If you are in the mood and feel like going, then have a great time. But if you’re in two minds and are already burning the candle at both ends, you can give yourself permission to say no. Cherry pick the occasions you genuinely feel inclined to attend and graciously decline the others. You don’t want to end up feeling resentful during what should be a joyful occasion. You can always plan get-togethers for January when you need a mood boost.
- And on that subject, plan something to look forward to in January and February. Once Christmas and New Year are over, you can end up feeling a bit deflated. Try and book in regular treats to raise your mood. Make a date with a friend, join a book club, download a Couch to 5K app or enrol on an evening course and learn something new. Maybe even a Spa day which will invigorate you. Make it something that you can enjoy now. There’s no harm in scouring the holiday catalogues for a break in the sun, but if your plans are too far off you’ll get dispirited. Enjoying winter is about finding things to love about the every day, rather than wishing away a third of the year.