The winter months are tough for many people in this climate. We have just about reached our limit of the dark and the cold. Our motivation tends to be low, and our cravings for comfort foods and sweets tend to be high. Colds and flues abound. Many people feel just plain worn out.
Have I cheered you up yet?
Well, let’s see what we can do to get us all though the rest of this winter. Here are my top 3 winter health tips for surviving the season.
1. Quit the cold stuff! Really, you’d be surprised at how much difference it makes. Lay off on the ice cream, watermelon, smoothies, cold juices, iced drinks and even go easy on raw fruits and salads. Indulge in warm teas and soups, cooked foods, and warming spices like ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, curry, turmeric, etc. I’m talking soups in the crockpot and greens sautéed with sliced ginger.
- Bonus recipe 1: Seriously, those greens happen to be one of my favorite things. If you’re feeling crunched for time, buy one of those bags or tubs of prewashed organic baby greens. They have a great big one at the Big Y with a mixture of baby kale, collards, mustard greens and I’m not even sure what else. Pour a little olive oil or toasted sesame oil in a pan. Add some thinly sliced ginger root and a couple of big handfuls of those greens (they shrink when you cook them) and sauté. Delicious side dish. Or add an egg and enjoy them as a nourishing, warming breakfast (I do this a lot). Sometimes I add a little cumin and cayenne as well.
- Bonus recipe 2: If you’re craving a bit of a sweet, try simmering some sliced apples and pears in a little water or apple cider on the stove. Add some slices of raw ginger and some cinnamon sticks as they simmer. You can even make this in a crockpot. Eat them warm and soft on the couch on a cold evening. Heat up the leftovers to have for breakfast over oatmeal or quinoa!
2. Exercise! It’s very easy to let exercise go by the wayside when it’s cold and dark. I find by February, even though technically it’s getting lighter every day, many of us are worn out by the cold and dark. I very often see an increase in depression and lack of motivation in people in January and February.
Winter is hard. It takes extra time and effort in our already busy lives to bundle up, to shovel, to clean off the car, to turn up the heat, to turn down the heat to save money, to put down salt and sand… It gets tiresome. But exercise is the best antidepressant medication out there for mild to moderate depression. Even 20 minutes, 4x/week can make a significant difference in your mood. Make it a priority. It will get you through!
3. Slow down! Our bodies are meant to follow the seasons. This means we are meant to sleep less and be more active during the long summer days. We are meant to rest more and be less active during the cold, dark months. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t make allowances for this.
Many people find themselves exhausted in winter because we are pushing ourselves during a time that we are meant to be resting, reflecting, refueling. In the short term, we get tired, grumpy, and more susceptible to illnesses. In the long term, we burn through our Kidney qi faster than we should, which can lead to increased health issues and allergies in the springtime, as well as more significant health issues and depression down the road.
Try to have at least a couple of evenings each week where you are home and relaxing by dark. Look at your schedule and try to pick a few things you can drop here and there. Find time to sit by a fire or under a warm blanket and read a book, snuggle your child or your sweetie, watch a good movie. Just sit and be. The rest of the world really will still be there tomorrow. And you will feel more able and eager to engage in it.