Pitch-black mornings, chilly crisp air, and roaring winds… Lingering nights make everything slow down – provoking the adoption of an unhealthy and spiritless lifestyle. Welcome to winter.
Here are ways to take the agony out of winter living.
The coldest season of the year brings a host of health battles including, laziness, dry skin, overeating, dehydration, depression and sensitivity to colds and flu.
Gaining weight and losing fitness momentum affects many during the winter months. In like manner, your emotional and mental welfare may also succumb to the pitfalls of depression and the blues.
When the cold caves in – realize that small, everyday choices can really make a difference in your health and life. While we cannot escape these winter challenges – through preparation – we can tackle them head on, and turn winter into the most glorious time of the year. Okay, it will never beat spring and summer, but… You know what I mean.
Here is my list of the top seven ways to raise your I Love Winter barometer without running to unhealthy comfort foods, hibernation, flu shots, and anti-depressants.
Top Seven Ways to Embrace the Winter Season
- MOVE YOUR BODY- Exercise eliminates a few winter drawbacks. Sitting by the fire with hot cocoa sounds like a phenomenal idea – but remember to also incorporate regular exercise to your itinerary. Studies show that a sedentary and lazy lifestyle leads to a weakened immune system. Habitual exercise boosts immunity and helps the lymphatic system rid the body of toxic waste. Assisting the lymphatic system (also known as your body’s sewage system) by moving your body defends it against illness and disease.
Exercise also amplifies everything – from happiness and motivation to confidence and energy levels. It reduces grumpiness, discouragement, and fatigue. For this reason, some doctors now prescribe intense exercise to those suffering from mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia. Top an exercise session with fresh air, and you have a winning combination.
- GET SUNKISSED – Take advantage of the sun and go outdoors – even if the sun
only reaches your face. Vitamin D from sunlight exalts health and mood, which is imperative in the winter. Just 10 to 15 minutes (sans the sunscreen) of direct midday sunlight exposure per day helps prevent a myriad of negative side effects. The sun’s vitamin D supports athletic performance, skin health, cell formation, immune system health, strong bones, sleep patterns, proper digestion, happy moods, and carbohydrate/fat metabolism. Since the winter season brings shorter days, you may need to take a high quality vitamin D3 supplement – especially if you love hibernating!
3. EAT CLEAN – Eat a wholesome diet jammed with essential nutrients like vitamin A,
vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, selenium, and zinc. Instead of reaching for the controversial flu vaccine, include more immune boosting foods to your daily diet. Some people even experience positive health effects after giving up dairy during the winter months since it tends to cause sinus problems. Limit your intake of nutrient-destroying foods such as sugar, caffeine and processed foods. Always stay away from high-fructose corn syrup and fried foods! Adding high quality complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, kamut, spelt, rye, and wild rice will increase serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that helps control appetite, stabilize mood, improve memory, body temperature and muscle movement.
- Vitamin A Foods – Sweet Potato, Carrot, Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash, Mustard Greens, Romaine Lettuce, Cantaloupe, Papaya, Grapefruit, Asparagus, Parsley, Watermelon, Green Peas, Broccoli, Mango, and Eggs
- Vitamin C Foods – Papaya, Broccoli, Pineapple, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Kale, Grapefruit, Mustard Greens, Lemon, Lime, Swiss Chard, Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Parsley, Blueberries, Guava, Baobab, Lychee, Acerola, Indian Gooseberry, Tangerine, and Oysters
- Vitamin E Foods – Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens, Papaya, Asparagus, Kale, Carrot, Oregano, Broccoli, Avocado, Sweet Potato, and Mango
- Iron Foods – Oysters, Mussels, Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Grass-Fed Beef, Lamb, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Eggs, Turkey, Sardines, Brown Rice and Artichokes
- Selenium – Sardines, Salmon, Turkey, Lamb, Scallops, Chicken, Eggs, Brown Rice, Venison, Sunflower Seeds, Oats, Sesame Seeds, Raw and/or Organic Milk, Asparagus, Spinach, Garlic, and Broccoli
- Zinc Foods - Venison, Lamb, Grass-Fed Beef, Scallops, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Oats, Turkey, Spinach, Green Peas, Asparagus, and Swiss Chard
- AVOID STRESS – Stress rapidly exhausts immune function and has a greater influence on your health than you might realize. A study conducted by Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and her partner, Ronald Glaser, an OSU virologist and immunologist, found that stress lowers antibody and healing responses in stressed individuals. Plus, it unleashes pro-inflammatory cytokines, which hampers the body’s ability to fight infection and heal wounds. Worst of all, this chronic inflammation increases the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, stress affects the nervous system, digestive system, and sleep quality. The constant flooding of stress hormones and chemicals can ultimately cause premature aging, weight gain, skin disorders, mental fog, lackluster sports performance, infertility, anxiety, arthritis, IBS, and ulcers. Stress “eats up” your body’s nutrients – therefore leaving you emotionally and physically exhausted.
Some ways to avoid stress:
- Avoid Procrastination and Disorder – Be prepared and more organized
- A Balanced Life – Make time for enjoyable hobbies, relaxation and exercise
- Avoid Negative People – Stay away from complainers and pessimists
- Escape Stressful Situations
- Keep Happy and Positive People Close
- Meditate and Pray Daily
- Share Problems and Concerns with Trusted Friends and Family
- Stop Thinking of the Past and Future – Live in the present moment
- Breathe – Never underestimate the power of deep breathing exercises
- Keep a To Do List – Focus on the most important priorities first
- Reduce Caffeine – Caffeine boosts stress hormones and can affect sleep
- Avoid Multitasking – Doing too much at one time creates unwanted stress
- Humor and Laughter– Laughing and smiling reduces unwanted stress hormones
- GET PLENTY OF REST – 21st century demands contribute to lousy, chaotic sleep patterns – eventually compromising our quality of life. Good sleep regulates appetite, balances blood sugar levels, and keeps the immune system working efficiently. Try going to bed at the same time every night, including weekends.
Tired during the day? James B. Mass, PhD, and author of Power Sleep recommends fitting in power naps to raise energy levels. “Take a 10 to 15 minute snooze… That’s all you need to rejuvenate and get through the rest of the day. Sleeping for 60 minutes would leave you groggy, and since 90 minutes is typically a full REM cycle, napping for that long would likely make it hard to fall asleep at your normal bedtime.” Strive to get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Try sleeping with your window cracked (as long as it is safe and quiet) since fresh air allows the body to receive pure oxygen. Zzzz Tip: Always sleep in a pitch-black bedroom.
- HYDRATE YOURSELF – Athletes and fitness buffs sometimes bypass the H2O
when training on chilly days. However, the body still perspires during winter workouts. Replacing lost fluids during the cold months is key for keeping hydration habits all year round. “If you’re a recreational exerciser, you don’t need to be carrying around water and drinking constantly – unless you start out severely hydrated, or you’re wearing so many layers and so much wind protection that you’re sweating profusely,” says Michael Bergeron, PhD, director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute.
“When training in the heat, you need to start your hydration about three hours before you workout. It takes a fair amount of time to muscularly hydrate.”
- Chris McCormack (World Class Professional Triathlete)
Water, herbal tea, soup, and coconut water are great for hydration. Studies found that drinking an ice slushy (about 8 grams per kilogram of body weigh per person)
before training in hot conditions can delay fatigue and lower body temperature during exercise. Bergeron advises to flip it during the winter season by loading up on warm drinks and soups before training sessions. “If you’re doing this regularly, you won’t have to worry too much about it or be too aggressive with your hydration,” he says. “But if you ignore it completely and get used to not drinking at all, you’ll set a bad precedent and could be in trouble when it starts to warm back up again.”
How do I know if I need to drink more water? Your urine should be pale yellow or a straw-like color – NEVER dark. Athletes and active people evidently require more hydration than someone who sits around watching TV all day. Dehydration creates havoc on an athlete’s performance. It will leave them with little muscular strength, less stamina and reduced endurance. Not to mention decreased concentration and reaction time.
- LOVE YOUR SKIN - Frosty winds and lack of humidity can inflict damage on a person’s skin – causing it to become dry, cracked and sometimes itchy. To prevent dry skin, refrain from taking long hot showers and use a great quality moisturizer right after showering – while the skin is still damp. Also, use gentle natural soaps – both on your body, hands and face. Winter Tip: It is best to use a richer moisturizer without dodgy unpronounceable ingredients. The more natural the better, e.g. jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and even olive oil.
Another way to shun dry, itchy skin is to stock up on B-vitamin rich foods, such as brown rice, watercress, asparagus, spinach, grass-fed beef, chicken, wild salmon, broccoli, sweet potato, eggs, banana, and green peas.
Athletes who spend long periods exercising outdoors should try and use a natural based SPF 30+, and keep hydrated to fight premature aging, dehydration, sunburn, and skin cancer.
Lastly, buy a natural bristle brush, and begin dry skin brushing daily before showering. Many fail to remember that the skin is the largest organ of the body – responsible for eliminating about 1 kilogram (2 pounds) of waste a day! Body brushing sheds dead skin cells, stimulates digestion, exfoliates, eliminates toxins, increases circulation, boosts blood flow, improves muscle tone, reduces cellulite, and unclogs pores. Brushing Tip: Always brush towards the heart as this ensures good lymph drainage.
Did you know early Greek athletes used a device to wash their skin before bathing to promote greater circulation? If that does not make you run out to buy a bristle brush, I do not know what will! J