How can we stay healthy, energized, and feeling our best during the winter months?
Winter is naturally a time of hibernation, and a time to take things slow, however being modern life we still have the everyday demands that don't stop just because it's cold outside. What can we do to keep our wellbeing at an optimum?
EXERCISE - I know it's so much cosier to stay curled up on the couch in winter, but it's actually more important to exercise during this period than in summer, as it strengthens our immune system and helps us fight off those cold and flus. Rather than staying cooped up in the house, get out for some fresh air, and make the most of the sunlight we do have, plus it will boost your mood and energy. Even just a brisk walk will help you increase those feel good homones.
WARM FOODS - Ditch those green smoothies during the winter, and make a hearty vegetable soup instead, your body will love you for it. Eat in season, there is a reason all those root vegetables that do well with slow cooking are so readily available. Bone broths, soups, slow cooked meals that are warming, and provide the nourishment we need are the go to.
SLEEP - It's important to revitalize, and as many animals do, hibernate! We are meant to get two extra hours sleep per night during winter. Before electricity which gave us artificial light, and blue light from our screens, people used to naturally get more sleep with the darkness. Go to bed a bit earlier and sleep a bit later to recuperate from the fatigue of winter, and get the most benefit from the rejuvenation that sleep can give us.
LOOK INWARD - In Chinese medicine winter is a good time to look inward, reflect, meditate, read, and journal. Your inner world comes closer to the surface at this time of year, and these types of activities help relax your mind, calm your spirit, and help raise your emotions. Journalling in particular can help bring your attention to consistent thoughts, and give insights to what might be going on for you.
NURTURE - This is a time of receiving, nurturing the self, and being rather than doing. It’s the time to restore, to clear your vision and your sense of purpose for when we emerge again in the Spring. Consider this as an opportunity to rest and to conserve energy so you have abundant reserves for when the next season arrives. Just like seeds under the soil during winter need to be nurtured so they will blossom and thrive in the Spring time, you can also do this for your health and wellbeing.
KEEP WARM - Chinese medicine suggests that the neck and shoulder areas contain the “Wind” points through which pathogens can enter, so keep these areas protected; wear a scarf and keep your neck covered.
VITAMIN D - The sunshine vitamin is harder to access during winter due to the sun being so low in the sky and because we rug up. The lack of serotonin that we experience can cause us to feel depressed and experience muscle pain; plus Vitamin D also plays a significant role in protecting us against disease. It's difficult to access through our food, so in winter you could consider a supplement. Most adults are unaware they have a Vitamin D deficiency, and if you have some concerns you can always have it tested by your GP.
PROBIOTICS - Are an immune booster to keep your gut healthy, and the gut is the first line of defence to protect you from any bugs. Try cultured fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut.
TURMERIC - Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and an immune booster. You can use Turmeric in your food, or you could boil fresh turmeric in hot water as a tea, and all those golden latte's popping up in our cafes are a great coffee substitute in winter to keep you healthy.
GARLIC - Is a natural remedy for colds and flus, but the trick is you have to eat it crushed and raw! Now before you turn off completely, keep in mind that it's a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties. Garlic crushed or chopped with our teeth releases a chemical allicin, that's has incredible antibacterial properties only present shortly after garlic is crushed and before it's heated. Not for the fainthearted, but give it a go if you dare! (Maybe just not before a romantic evening out).
GINGER - Is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic which prevents the growth of disease. It targets upper respiratory viruses, soothes a sore throat and has properties to suppress a cough. Ginger provides stomach and digestive relief, and has the benefit of warming you up, a natural pain reducer, it can also give relief to blocked nasal passages.
VITAMIN C - I love lemon water in the morning for a Vitamin C boost, which strengthens your immune system and fights off infection. It also gives you a little energy boost. However, in winter I also like to take a supplement to give me that added protection against colds and flus.
OMEGA 3 - Found in walnuts, flaxseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and oily fish, Omega 3 oils are a mood booster that help fight the winter blues. They also keep your skin moisturised from within.
DRINK WATER - It's important to stay hydrated during the winter months where our bodies are naturally drier. 2- 3 litres a day is ideal. Drinking warm water is also recommended so you’re not putting cold into the system, and in Ayurvedic medicine this helps detoxify the body.
And if you do feel like you are starting to come down with a cold, I highly recommend my number 1 cold booster recipe here.
Stay warm and cosy everyone!