Staying well in winter can be a challenge. As temperatures cool, we crave more comfort foods, avoid exercise and almost go into a mindset of partial hibernation. With motivation slipping, its easy to fall into bad habits. This can have a major affect on our mental and physical wellbeing, and really put us into a hole that’s hard to get out of.
These mental and physical conditions can mean we put on weight and lose fitness, but we also open ourselves up to more seasonal colds and viruses. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to boost our wellbeing and help beat those winter blues.
We all know the importance and benefits of getting enough water in the summer months, but this also applies in winter too. When your are outside, your body has to work harder to keep warm, causing you to sweat more under those layers than you realise.
Breathing in colder, dryer air also adds to water loss. Recent studies show that people feel 40% less thirsty during the winter months, even though your bodies need for water doesn’t drop. We lose the visual and physiological cues of sweating that promote regular hydration. A simple water bottle with measurements is a good way to keep track of your water intake each day.
Finally, our immune system is compromised in the cold months as mucous membranes in our noses, sinuses and lungs dry out from breathing the cold drier air. This reduces our resistance to infections. So to stay well in winter, keep on top of your hydration for a healthier, happier you.
In the cold weather, the thought of tearing yourself away from a roaring fire and hot coffee doesn’t sound appealing. But, time outside can really improve your mental mood as well as your physical wellbeing.
Being outside in nature has been shown to boost your mood, help set your circadian rhythm’s wake-sleep cycle, helping healthy sleep patterns while increasing your energy levels and stamina at the same time.
Being out in sunshine, even low levels in winter, increases your vitamin D levels. This important vitamin is linked to immune health, as well as increasing bone, teeth and muscle health.
Make Time for Exercise
Like getting outdoors, the thought of exercise in the winter can fill you with dread and quickly reaching for the duvet. But the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise are key to staying well in winter.
Regular exercise releases feel good endorphins that cheer you up on the dullest of days, but it also helps you boost your immune system and fight off the common bugs that tend to be around in the winter. Keeping your fitness and strength is important at this time of year, helping you deal with those tough jobs, like clearing snow or battling the winds and slush on the way to the shops.
Exercise could be as simple as a daily, brisk walk around your local park or some resistance training in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to commit to a marathon to give your body that much needed movement.
Create a Sleep Routine
Sleep can sometimes be an issue in the winter months. The tough task of getting out of a warm bed into a dark room can be even more taxing at this time of year, but getting it right has major benefits.
The importance of sleep on your mental and physical state is well-understood and researched for decades, but we all fall into the same pitfalls. The darker winter months can really interfere with your circadian rhythm, your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle. That’s why it is important to get out into the daylight at the earliest time possible to help that cycle stabilise and reset.
A set bedtime and wake time is another important aspect to wellbeing in winter. Change too often and your body doesn’t have a chance to learn the routine, and your mood and energy levels will suffer.
Getting your bedroom suitable for a restful night’s sleep has major benefits. Decluttering your bedroom, as well as removing and not using screens or technology can have a positive impact on your sleep routine. Room temperature is also important. Studies show the best temperature is slightly cooler than you’d expect, at 15.6-19.4 degrees Celsius for the most comfortable nights sleep.
Forget the New Year’s Resolution
We all put so much stress on the idea of a ‘New Year, New You’, with a grand gesture that’s always a bit bigger than we can handle, and forgotten by the start of February. January is always a time when new gym memberships are taken on, or the latest fad diet subscription service that ends up as an unused direct debit coming out of your bank each month.
Instead, why not choose small lifestyle changes that really make a difference? Manageable improvements can be built on and have a higher chance of sticking. By saying goodbye to the pressure, stress and guilt of a resolution this winter you can make small increments that will actually compound into a healthier, happier life in a way that you can manage. What have you got to lose?
Eat the Right Foods
During the winter months, it’s easy to grab for the feel-good sugary snacks to boost your mood on a cold grey day. But these foods could be holding you back and doing more damage, both mentally and physically. The sugary snacks may feel good at the time, but these can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated and in some cases guilty, while you fight off the next sugar crash and energy slump.
Refuelling on the right foods of fruits, vegetables and high protein snacks could be exactly what your body needs to help stave off the latest winter virus, as well as those winter blues.
When it comes to staying well in winter, don’t underestimate the restorative power of self-care sessions. A nice, warm cup of tea, a long soak in the bath with a good book, or an occasional glass of wine in front of the TV can boost your mood on the duller days. It also feels so much more rewarding and well-earned after a productive day.
The Key to Staying Well in Winter
In the cold winter months, its easy to want to hide away and hibernate under a warm blanket in front of the latest Netflix series. However, following these small changes could make a massive difference to your health and wellbeing, and make the step into the spring less of a struggle.
Keeping active and eating well through winter keeps you on the journey to the life you want. You don’t go back to square one each spring after a festive blowout, but stay ticking over just nicely!