Maintaining good health over winter can be challenging for many. The colder weather often brings many concerns – anything from colds and flu’s to chapped skin and the winter blues. So how can you spend the cooler months with optimum energy and vitality? I want to share with you some ideas you can embrace to not only survive but thrive this winter.
Let’s Get Excited about Winter
Some people love the cooler months and embrace winter as it is their favourite time of year. Others, on the other hand, struggle with the idea of shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, wet and windy days and bleak skies. I am one of those people.
I like to write about our ‘attitude’ to Winter because it forces me to change my mindset and think of all the good things about Winter rather than focus on the negatives.
And let’s face it, Winter is with us for 3 months so we might as well make the most of it and get busy living!
…tis the season of open fires, scarves, hats & gloves, slow-cooked casseroles & curries and warming soups & stews.
With a change in our mindset we can embrace the cooler months by taking time to nourish our bodies with seasonal, wholesome meals and nourish our connections with people by sharing these meals with those we love. By deciding to make good choices with the food we eat and the exercise we do, we can stay healthy and vital during the cooler months.
As Billy Connolly says “there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s just the wrong clothing” (although Billy adds a bit more colour to his language)
A Top Winter “Energy Zapper”
With all this in mind however, Winter can be a ‘risk time’ for lowered energy. The trick to maintaining peak energy levels this Winter is to Recognise, Respect, Nurture and Nourish your body when Vitality starts to drop.
The “Winter Blues”, also known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is caused by lack of sunlight. In Australia we are not subjected to the reduced daylight hours that some of our northern hemisphere friends are, but many Australians still experience lowered mood, energy and vitality during our Winter months. If reduced sunlight affects you in winter, incorporate the following tips to stay vital and happy.
Eat Foods To Boost Your Mood
Foods rich in tryptophan (an amino acid), help your body produce serotonin (our feel-good neurotransmitter). Foods containing tryptophan include: milk, chicken, beef, brown rice, fish, eggs, nuts, bananas and vegetables. Combining these with complex carbohydrates will help increase its absorption.
Regular exercise is crucial for managing a lowered mood. It is a fantastic way to help deal with stress as it clears circulating cortisol’s and releases endorphins – those ‘feel good’ chemicals. During the warmer months it is easy to rise with the sun and start the day with a brisk walk or workout. But when it’s dark, cold, windy and raining motivation often wanes and those exercise rituals can very quickly fall away. If your current rituals aren’t possible because of the weather you need to replace them. Engage a personal trainer over the winter months or take advantage of the state-of-the-art exercise equipment at the local gym. Try swimming in an indoor heated pool or don a bicycle helmet and hit the local tracks for a weekend bike ride. Often just varying our exercise routines and activities can be the key to keeping you motivated and inspired to move more over winter. By incorporating 30-40mins of exercise most days, you will not only increase your energy levels but you will enhance your cognitive function, memory and learning and protect against mental health issues.
Beware of over-indulging in comfort foods
It is tempting to indulge in quick & easy refined comfort foods, such as pasta and white rice, chocolate and sweet treats when we are feeling a bit low. Let’s face it we’ve all succumbed to it from time to time. But eaten regularly these foods promote unstable blood sugar levels and weight gain which can further contribute to lowered mood, energy and vitality. Instead, eat complex carbohydrates in moderation. Try something new like quinoa, millet or buckwheat. Include lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Replace unhealthy snacks with nuts and seeds, chopped vegetables and dips. Experiment with raw cacao instead of chocolate and eat small amounts of protein regularly to avoid cravings and keep you balanced.
It is also important to supercharge your diet over winter with nutrient-dense meals. Soups and broths are quick and easy to make, are packed with nutrients and make a delicious lunch or convenient and nourishing snack. Experiment with miso and Asian-style broths, and include favourites such as minestrone, roast pumpkin and chicken soup. The beauty of soups is that you can make a huge pot full on the weekends, include whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, flavour with herbs and spices and have enough so you are prepared for lunches during the week.
Winter is with us every year. A combination of a positive mindset, maintaining healthy exercise rituals and incorporating nourishing winter foods will optimise your mood and vitality during the colder months. And if you do happen to succumb to a winter illness allowing time to nourish, nurture, and convalesce will have you back living to your potential and enjoying life no matter the weather.
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