Winter. Shorter days, frost on the window, thick socks and often a desire to hibernate, but also crisp sunny days, the opportunity to get cosy with blankets and hot chocolate and a chance to let the body rest and restore. Even though we have now passed winter solstice and the days are getting longer, that image in our minds of a warm tropical beach can still sabotage motivation once we look out of the window at what is really going on.
Here are 10 ideas to help embrace the winter seasons and nurture yourself:
- Make the most of what daylight there is. Try to get up earlier each day, gradually by 15 minutes. Since it gets darker earlier in the day I (try to) get up earlier to compensate and make the most of the light. This means getting to bed earlier which is great as it allows our bodies to get more in sync with circadian rhythms. To help with getting to bed earlier I do the following:
- Set a daily alarm to switch off all electronics (mine is 10:30pm but I am considering setting it earlier)
Use a free computer app called f.lux to adjust the light of your computer screen in relation to the hours of light and dark. Computer screens and the TV emit blue light which tricks our brains into thinking its still daytime and inhibits melatonin (a hormone which helps us get to sleep). F.lux adjusts the blueness and dims increasingly as it gets dark. Not only does this prevent our eyes and brains being over-stimulated but I find that noticing the dimmer more orange screen is a reminder that this part of the day is best used away from screens, to unwind and relax and so it helps me to switch off.
For ways to help with getting up earlier see my post on this.
- Use an SAD lamp to use in the first part of the day November-February to boost energy levels and help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have a small one (Philips GoLite) on my desk and use it for 15 minutes in the morning while I am working. A Vitamin D supplement can also be a good idea this time of year when we see less sunlight. I use Biocare Liquid Vitamin D.
- This time of the year our bodies crave warmth and relaxation so warm baths, especially before bed, can be a great solution. Add some drops of rosemary, ginger or lavender essential oils to warm your body and soul and 2 cups of Epsom mineral salts to relax muscles and draw toxins from the body. These salts can also increase white blood cell count, great for fighting off colds and flu. You can also warm your feet up in a tub full of hot Epsom salt water (great for nourishing the kidneys and heating up the whole body).
- Swap salads and sandwiches for soups and stews for better digestion and overall immunity. According to Chinese medicine, in Winter, Yin (female energy, cold, night) is more pre
valent and warming foods and root vegetables such as squash and sweet potatoes, nourish and support kidney yin/yang energy in the body. If you have to eat cold food have a cup of herbal tea or hot water along with it. Have porridge for breakfast (see my ‘7 days of porridge’ post coming soon!) and add more warmed fruit to your diet such as stewed plums with cinnamon. Yum.
- If you work from home, make sure you get out of the house each day even for 5 minute walk ideally while it’s still light.
- Indulge in the things that come into their own in the winter, invest in a sheepskin throw or rug for instant cosiness, light candles in the evenings, dim or switch off electric lights earlier than you might and enjoy the rest and earlier nights.
- Make turmeric milk: this is an incredibly warming, comforting and immune-boosting drink. The bright yellow spice, turmeric is known as one of the most anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant spices there is. To make this magical milk: combine 2 cups almond or coconut milk with 1 tsp ground turmeric, 1 tsp cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper (which aids absorption) and 1 tbsp honey or stevia to taste. You can just mix the ingredients as you heat in a pan for 3 mins or let simmer for deeper flavours for up to 15 mins.
- Sing to strengthen your lungs and immunity and let it all hang out. In the shower, the car, in the middle of the park – wherever you like. I plan to join a local singing Meetup group.
- Add more ginger and garlic to your diet. We all know how great these are for your immune system and circulation but the best trick I’ve learned to nip a cold in the bud is to simmer chopped ginger root in water for 20 minutes to really get the goodness out. Add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to calm the heat if you like.
- Treat yourself to a nurturing body treatment. This is great for you all year but especially helpful to boost your energy and restore balance in the winter months.
It helps me to remember that each season has its own energy and we are evolved to reflect that. Maybe productivity won’t be as high in the winter as the long summer days but through more rest, stillness and meditation, reflection and other benefits will come and that is how nature works, in cycles.
How do you make winter work for you?