Here in Vancouver, the days have been getting just a little warmer, longer and brighter, which made me excited for spring- until I woke up to find snow on the ground this past Friday! While, I have to admit, we’ve got it pretty easy here in comparison to the rest of Canada, I still find the winter months challenging in terms of getting motivated to work out and keeping a positive mind frame when the days are short and dark. Even people who love the snow (not me, but other people!) may have issues in winter such as low energy, vitamin D deficiency and dry skin and hair, caused by the cold outside air and indoor heating. Below is a list of things that help me get through the winter months, which I hope you find helpful as well.
If you live in a cold climate, it may be tempting to want to spend all of your free time curled up under a blanket in front of the TV. However, it’s important to get enough exercise, preferably outside so you get some fresh air and sunlight, in order to stave off the winter blues. If you’re feeling down, it can be hard to get motivated, but sometimes you need to spend a little energy to make energy. Even moderate excersise, such as a brisk walk, can help to keep the winter blues at bay.
Let the light in
If the weather is just too bad and you really can’t get out, open up your curtains to let some natural light in. It can really make a big difference in your mood.
Light boxes that utilize full-spectrum light, which mimics sunlight, are a good way to get some extra exposure if you’re feeling down. There are many models available for under $200. If you have to wake up while it’s still dark, you may find an alarm clock that uses light to wake you up, such as this Wake Up Light, to be helpful.
We all know that we have to drink more water during the hot summer months, but its just as important to keep hydrated in winter as well. Make sure you’re getting enough water to keep your energy up and hydrate your body from the inside out. If you’re feeling sluggish, it might be tempting to reach for an extra cup of coffee or tea, but your body may actually need water (fatigue is often the first sign of dehydration). Herbal teas are just as warm and comforting, without the caffeine. Other non-caffeinated drinks such as flavoured waters and juice can count as hydration also; just make sure you’re not ingesting excess sugar through these beverages.
Make sure you’re consuming enough fresh produce (local if possible), protein, and complex carbs to give your body the nutrients it’s needs for energy and vitality. Vitamin D is especially important during the winter time, as we who live in northern climates don’t benefit from the sun as much as in the summer months. Vitamin D is necessary for maintaining mood and to stave off colds and flus. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified milk and alternatives such as almond or soy milk.
You may be tempted to go for carb-heavy comfort foods or indulge in sugary snacks during the winter, but it’s important to incorporate foods from each food group to maintain overall health and wellbeing. Soups and stews made with fresh, whole foods are a good way to keep warm and stay nourished.
Also, if dry skin is an issue, make sure you’re getting enough omega 3s and healthy fats in your diet, which have been proven to benefit skin and hair.
Practise self care
During the winter, we generally stay inside more, which for some people means spending more time with their families, and for others it can result in feelings of loneliness and isolation. Both scenarios can result in feelings of stress and overwhelment, depending on the situation.
Winter is a time for rest, renewal and reflection. You may find yourself in “hibernate” mode, with a variety of feelings and emotions coming up. It’s okay to take time for yourself to regroup and focus on your goals and desires for the upcoming months. Just be sure to stay connected with a good group of friends and reach out if you are feeling depressed.
Restorative practices such as yoga, meditation or journaling can help you to stay grounded and present and ease your transition into spring and summer.
Retreat and regroup
Ideally, we’d all be able to go on a vacation to some place warm and beautiful every year. Of course, due to time and financial constrains this isn’t always possible. However, if you can manage to get away for a night, to go to a special retreat or even a nice hotel in a different city, it can be incredibly rejuvenating. If you have family or work obligations that prevent from you being able to go away even for one night, you could just take some time for yourself during the day. Take yourself out for a nice lunch or a go for a spa day. Whatever helps you to feel renewed. Just remember to be kind and gentle with yourself to help ease your transition into the warmer months ahead 🙂