You can feel it in the crisp morning air. Every morning the sun stays away for just a tad longer and in the afternoon it gets dark before you even finished watering your garden… Winter is coming. And no, I am not talking about Game of Thrones. I am talking about actual winter. The season. You know? Cold air temperatures, dry skin, runny noses, that sort of thing.
If you are anything like me, you are probably not looking forward to waking up and going to work while it is still dark. Eating soup is a plus, but wearing a scarf when you go out is just annoying! Not to mention that you keep on forgetting the thing somewhere…
The question is, how will you tackle this winter? Are you going to mope around, gain weight and wish your days away while thinking of the beach, or are you going to approach this winter with cool confidence and style?
Read on to find out how you can beat the winter blues and how you can relax your way into winter.
Why do you feel blue in winter?
Well, if you don’t feel blue in winter. You are lucky! Keep up the good work. Unfortunately there are quite a number of people that do tend to feel a bit bluish come winter time. But why? Is winter such a bad thing?
And the answer is no. it is not a bad thing. It is just different from summer and with the modern, fast paced lifestyle, doing your everyday things in the dark can become depressing. Here’s why:
Lack of Sunlight
We have spoken about the need for sunshine in various blog posts before, but we are going to do so once more. Sunshine in the early morning is vital for a good circadian rhythm. Even though your circadian clock will keep on ticking, whether it is light or dark, adding sunshine helps. Research shows that being exposed to the early morning sun will make it easier to fall asleep at night. It is also a source of Vitamin D, which is not readily available in food. When the ultraviolet rays from the sun shine on your skin, your body starts producing vitamin D on its own. So for a lot of office bound people, getting to work while it is still dark and getting home in the dark cuts out a drastic amount of Vitamin D.
If you are one of these people that has to stick to strict office hours, please consult your pharmacist or health practitioner to find out about taking a Vitamin D supplement. Because without this Vitamin, your body struggles to absorb calcium, thus your bone structure can become brittle and you stand a bigger chance of developing osteoporosis.
Staying in Bed for too Long
I can’t believe I am actually writing this, but yes, you can stay in bed for too long. When it is cold outside, you want to stay in a warm and cozy place. Like a bed, for instance. Let me just make this very clear, I am not, I repeat, NOT in any way trying to dissuade you from sleeping. Sleep is super important when it comes to relaxation and rest. But just laying awake or snoozing… well that’s not so healthy.
Instead of lying in on a chilly morning, get up and do your morning exercise. You will forget about the cold in no time, you won’t put on that extra couple of kilo’s and your body will be ready for sleep come bed time. I know it is difficult, trust me. But do it anyway. Go to bed early and get out of bed when your alarm clock goes off. If it is still dark outside, do your morning routine in front of a blue light. An article in the Journal of Biological Rhythms proved that exposure to blue light in the morning improves a persons sleep cycle, so give it a go.
Eating too Much Comfort Food
This is another one of those unheard of things. Too much comfort food!? Get out of town!
Unfortunately (and we all know this) there is really something like too much comfort food. In fact, there are people that go so far as to say that any amount of comfort food is too much. But you can relax, I am not one of those…
The thing is, when it is cold, dark and miserable, people want to eat. And usually the things they want to eat aren’t at the top of the healthy foods list. Eating makes us warm, so it is understandable that we want to eat when we are cold. But we should be careful about what we eat. Don’t gorge yourself on mom’s mac&cheese or on a chocolate fondue.
Even though it is difficult, try to keep the carbs on the down low this winter. Try eating winter fruits in stead. Oranges are an amazing source of Vitamin C (which aids in regenerating tissue, fighting disease and preventing heart disease). So instead of eating a chocolate slab when you feel anxious or sad about the impeding winter, eat an orange.
It’s so Cold Outside
Duh. It’s winter! Well done for stating the obvious. But facts are facts. When it is cold outside people don’t want to do things. I mean let us be honest with each other. It is very easy to decide not to go for your morning run when it is cold outside. Why not stay indoors, lie under the blanket and binge watch your favourite series?
I won’t lie, that sounds like great idea, but being inactive all weekend is bad for your health. By moving around, the body gets rid of excess toxins through the lymph system. Similar to blood vessels, the lymph system also consists of vein like tubes that transport stuff around in your body. The only difference is that the lymph system does not have a heart to keep it pumping. It is powered by muscle movement. Therefore lying on the couch all weekend is not such a great idea. No muscle movement equals a buildup of toxins in your system, which might lead to depression or illness.
To beat the cold on that early morning jog or ride, dress in layers. Start by putting on a body hugging long sleeved T-shirt and sweat pants, then layer up over that. Believe me, before you know it, you’ll start peeling off those layers!
How to Relax your way into Winter
Okay, so now that you’ve been made aware of some of the things you should try to avoid this winter, let’s look at how you can improve your winter experience.
Yes yes, I know I just talked about exercising! But here is the thing, exercise is really good for you! I know some of you think that exercise during winter invites illness and disease. But actually it does the exact opposite! Medical doctors and psychologists have found that exercising throughout the year improves your immune system and decreases the risk of getting colon and breast cancer. If that isn’t reason enough to get those running shoes out of the closet, I don’t know what is!
According to research, the optimum amount of exercise is around two and a half hours of intermediate physical activity per week. If you don’t have that much time in a week, it’s not a problem. Just turn up the resistance and train intensely for an hour to an hour and a half each week.
This might sound weird, but stretching helps. Don’t sit hunched up in front of your computer all day. Stand up and stretch those legs! Even if it is just for a few minutes at a time. Try not to sit still for more than an hour at a time. You don’t have to do an hour’s worth of yoga every time you get up, but do some exercises to relax your hands, arms neck and shoulders. Sitting at a computer and typing restricts blood flow to the hands (trust me, I know), so working them hands is a must.
If you can’t really get up every hour, try some desk yoga. You can stream a live desk yoga video on YouTube, or if you are not allowed to use social media at work, try out one of the various desk yoga apps available on the Play Store and App Store.
No, I am not contradicting myself. I know I said earlier that you shouldn’t lie in bed for too long, but lying in bed is not the same as sleeping. Sleeping is essential, lying in is a luxury.
So where do you draw the line between sleeping enough and lying in? According to most sources, adults should sleep between seven and nine hours per night. Depending on a child’s age, they should sleep anything from twenty hours a day (newborn) to ten hours a day (teenagers). There are some things that we simply can’t go without, and late night TV is not one of those. When it comes to sleep, we cannot compromise.
If you want to be happy and healthy this winter, you will have to prioritize sleep over movies, partying and work.
Eat Healthy Food
I touched on this when I spoke about not eating comfort food, but let me expand on that a bit. Maintaining a balanced diet is more important to our happiness than most people know. Obviously you know that eating a chocolate will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and make you feel good. And then make your blood sugar level drop and make you feel bad. (Don’t compensate for this by eating another chocolate bar). Rather consider cutting the chocolate down. Note, cut down. Not cut out. There is a difference.
The thing about healthy eating is that you should do it in moderation. There is a lot of research that supports this statement. Eating too much in one go is bad for your. Period. But then again, eating too little is also bad for you. So in the end it is all about balance. Dietitians say that you should snack regularly throughout the day and try to keep your snack times more or less the same every day. In this way, you keep your sugar levels fairly stable throughout the day.
It is important not to skip meals and to know what specific foods are bad for your digestive system.
Do what you do to relax
This is an important part of being well rounded and well rested. Pursue your hobbies, but do not let them consume you. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” is a very accurate statement. Don’t focus too much on work, studies and staying alive that you stop living. Yes, life is serious, but it should also be fun. Take a break every now and then to do something that you like.
With that I am going to love you and leave you. I am going to do something that I like right now. Did I mention that I love sleep..?