With the holiday festivities behind us we in the northern hemisphere will prepare to settle in for a long cold winter. Winters shorter days can leave us feeling lethargic and often depressed from lack of sunlight. Some people are affected more than others this time of year.
Follow these 5 tips for winter wellness to avoid getting caught with the winter doldrums:
Choose healthier comfort food options:
In winter we often crave carbs because they are rich in tryptophan, this causes our feel good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) to spike temporarily. These foods while they give us comfort are typically refined and laden with sugar. They have no nutritional value and because they cause a quick spike in blood sugar will give us more cravings for sugar, the very thing we are trying to kick after the holidays! To avoid this vicious cycle eat more protein rich foods like cheese or yogurt, nuts, legumes and have comforting soups or stews.
Get Off the Couch
Don’t let winter be an excuse for lack of exercise. If its too cold to leave your home, develop a fitness routine that works best for you and your physical abilities. You can do sit ups, leg lifts, use smaller hand weights, and do push ups against a wall or counter to help keep the muscles strong. Do several of these in repetition 2-3 days a week. If you’re really ambitious get a rebounder (small trampoline), it allows the body to do gentle bouncing which stimulates the lymphatic system to keep the immune system strong.
Walking can be done indoors at a mall if it’s too cold outside, join the local community center for gym, swimming or yoga classes. Senior centres also have group activities and always welcome new members.
Take time to get plenty of rest. Restful sleep helps combat depression, and allows the body to fight off infections and virus.
Take Vitamins & Probiotics
Iron, Zinc, Vitamin C, and probiotics are key to keeping our immune systems strong to ward off cold & flu symptoms. Try adding these foods to your diet to ensure you are getting extra amounts of nutrients: dark leafy greens, bright colored fruits & vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes. If you love garlic it’s your best friend this time of year to keep the immune system strong. Opt for odorless capsules if you worry about the taste & smell.
Get a good multivitamin (from a health store not a store generic brand) it’s a good insurance policy to make sure you are getting the required daily intake of essential minerals and vitamins. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 is essential to keep bones strong, prevent Cancer and keep SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in check. The recommended daily amount is between 600 – 800 IU. Probiotics are essential to keep the bad bacteria at bay that can populate our intestinal tract, allowing us to get sick.
Stimulate the Brain!
The long winter months make it too easy to find ourselves planted on our couch channel surfing. While it’s cozy to settle in for a night of marathon movie watching we can’t let this become habit. The latest “thing” is adult coloring books – if you are a doodler or love to color this is for you! Take an online course, do crossword puzzles, read a book (hard copy or digitally), install iCare’s health app or get creative with a hobby. Keeping the brain active is essential for preventing dementia symptoms, and depression.
Unless you have the luxury of heading south for the winter, make the best of it, Spring is only a few months away!