It’s official: the days are shorter and the nights are longer, getting out of the bed is a lot less appealing and a lot of us are busier than ever preparing for the festive season. You know what that means? Winter is here!
Whilst that does mean fun Christmas markets, cosy nights in and hot chocolate, it can also make lots of normal parts of our routine more difficult. We need to set aside more time in the morning to de-ice our cars, travel in the dark more often and generally a lot of us feel more glum as well during winter months due to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This means that staying feeling your best can be a lot more challenging in the colder months. Today we wanted to help give you a complete wellness guide to help you combat the winter blues, as well as stay feeling your best!
Maintaining a healthy diet
After a cold commute home, cooking is often the last thing that we want to do! In addition to that, plenty of fresh vegetables aren’t in season to keep in our fridge, so we don’t blame you for reaching for your mobile phone to order a takeaway a little more often. However, the facts are that a diet of takeaways won’t leave you feeling great in the long run, and is a big reason as to why we tend to gain a few pounds in the winter time!
In addition to this, getting vitamins and minerals into your body through your diet is more important than ever in order to keep your immune system strong during the winter. This is because there are way more nasty bugs around that your body has to ward off in the colder months and they spread much more easily. The reason that they spread so quickly in winter is due to the fact that we spend a lot more time indoors, meaning that germs can spread between us with more ease. In addition to this, as the air is dryer in winter, viruses are able to remain in the air a little longer due to the usual layer of moisture that surrounds them no longer being there!
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to get in during the wintertime as research shows that from October to March, the ultraviolet light from the sun is not strong enough during the shorter, darker days to produce sufficient vitamin D levels. This means that most of our vitamin D intake will have to come from our diet in order for it to stay protecting your immune system, keep your bones strong and you feeling your best. Some great sources of vitamin D are fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, oily fish, egg yolks and mushrooms, so we recommend packing them into your diet before you reach for the supplements!
Vitamin C is also great to pack in during flu season as although it doesn’t prevent you from getting ill, it’s strengthening effect on the immune system can wildly reduce the severity of illnesses like colds and flu. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes are a great source of this nutrient, as well as cranberries and leafy greens.
Finally, iron intake is vital for winter, as it is responsible for the production of haemoglobin, which is the protein that allows oxygen to get to your body tissue, as well as aiding in the regulation of body temperature. So if you’re somebody that finds themselves getting cold feet/hands, dealing with headaches often or feeling fatigued in winter there’s a chance that upping your iron intake could make you feel a lot better! Some examples of great, iron rich foods to incorporate into your diet include beans, lentils, red meat and leafy greens.
Resist the urge to stay in bed all day
We know- when it's dark and dreary outside all we want to do is spend the day in bed where it’s nice and cosy: in bed! But often being inactive in the daytime can leave us feeling sluggish and unable to sleep well at nighttime. We recommend you try pushing yourself to get out of bed first thing in the morning, for example by setting an alarm and putting it across the room (meaning that you can’t hit snooze in your sleep!).
In addition, by staying in with the curtains closed you’re not letting your body get access to the already reduced amount of sunlight outside, which is a huge factor for the previously mentioned Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly referred to as SAD). SAD causes feelings of depression, as well as fatigue and insomnia in winter months, as reduced levels of sunlight can cause a drop in our serotonin levels (the happy hormone!) which causes the negative symptoms. If you find yourself feeling low we recommend speaking to someone (a friend, family or professional).
Try to stay active
Leading on from our last point, getting out and staying active is super important in the colder months! We get it though, going for a jog definitely isn't as tempting when it's bitterly cold or raining outside, and leaving the house to go to the gym is a task within itself! Therefore we recommend trying some at home workouts, for example by following a trainer on youtube, or just doing some of the training exercises that you would be doing at the gym from the comfort of your own living room!
If home workouts aren’t really your thing, one thing that I find always pushes me to go to the gym when I really can’t be bothered to is having a gym buddy! This is a friend that you arrange going to the gym with, whether that be for a group class or just solo training. By making it a bit more of a social affair you’re way more likely to want to go and find the fun in working out (plus you can always go out for a coffee or nutrient packed smoothie afterwards as a reward for all of your hard work!).
Usually staying hydrated is promoted in the warmer months, but it doesn’t become any less important in winter! Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so in order to keep our cells working their best we recommend drinking around 8 glasses of water a day, but you can enjoy this water in the form of teas, juices and plenty of other ways too!
We can also get our water intake from the food we eat as a part of our diets, from whole foods like fruits and vegetables (think cucumber, melon and lettuces) as well as some winter favourites like warming soups and hearty stews.
In the winter the air is a lot dryer compared to the humidity that summer can bring, meaning that dry, cracked skin becomes common in the winter time. We recommend that in order to remain as hydrated as possible that you also add in moisturiser to your routine if you don’t already, and although they are tempting on those cold winter mornings we suggest avoiding a super hot shower, as this only serves to dry out your skin even more! Instead try taking a warm shower/bath and following it with a body oil/moisturiser to lock in moisture and leave your skin feeling smooth and supple.
Make time for self care
Self care is the key to looking, feeling and being your very best, and my favourite thing about it is that it looks different for everybody! In winter when our bodies are feeling a little more weary it is more important than ever to practice self care, as it will give you more energy and a better attitude in your day to day life! You should try to dedicate at least an hour each day to doing something that YOU love to do, whether that’s reading, taking a warm bath, getting your nails done or playing your favourite sport. As long as you are doing something that makes you feel great on the inside and out, that counts as self care!
We really hope that this winter wellness guide was helpful to anybody struggling with the colder weather, and we’d love to hear some of your favourite winter wellness hacks that you try to practice this season over on our Instagram! (@loveyourselfhq)