Winter Wellbeing: Stay Happy and Healthy Over The Colder Months
In all honesty, now isn’t the time of year that most people are thinking about getting healthy. It’s cold and wet so early morning runs and hikes outside are pretty much off the cards, and when it’s pitch black when you get home from work, it’s that bit more difficult to persuade yourself to get off the sofa and head to the gym. Instead, many of us prefer some comfort food and a steaming mug of hot chocolate! Plus with the festive season right around the corner, it doesn’t seem like the ideal time to start dieting. However you don’t have to see things this way, and it really doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There are ways you can look after yourself over the winter and still have plenty of festive fun. That way you’re likely to keep your immune system high avoiding colds and flu, plus you’ll maintain your weight better rather than piling on loads due to the festivities. Here are a few things to bear in mind.
Make Some Healthy Winter Warmer Recipes
During the summer we naturally gravitate towards fresh and healthy foods. Refreshing smoothies, fruit and light salads make up a large part of our diet which naturally keep it lower on calories and high in nutrition. Winter is all about warming comfort food, but there are lots of ways you can go about keeping it healthy. Soup is a fantastic winter warmer, it makes for a perfect lunch on a cold day and you can make it yourself keeping it light and healthy. Whether it’s tomato, vegetable, leek and potato, pea and mint, carrot and coriander or any other combination you want- they’re simple and easy to make. Boil up any vegetables you’re using, add herbs and spices and then cool. Blend the cooled mixture until it’s smooth, and then reheat. Add a swirl of natural yoghurt as a lighter alternative to cream and serve with some wholemeal bread. Stews are another good option, and some meat and plenty of vegetables to a slow cooker. Gravy or a packet stew mix can be added to thicken it up. It’s hearty and warming but packs a punch with nutrition. Cooking from scratch is always better, you can control what goes in and it’s a good way to ensure you’re getting your five a day.
Keep On Top Of Your Mental Health
In the summer when the long warm evenings stretch out forever, you find yourself outside more, being active and socialising with friends. When its colder, the short dark days can have a negative effect on mood. It can be nice staying cosy and warm in the house, but as winter drags on it can have you feeling a little down. If you already suffer from depression it’s important to look after yourself, especially if you’re prone to things like seasonal affective disorder. There are clinics that can really help with your behavioral health, so be sure to seek out the help if you need it. Therapy and medication are usually advised, if it is seasonal affective disorder, there are special lamps you can get too to help with symptoms. Since Christmas can be a stressful time of year, make sure you’re planning practically and financially. That way you’re more prepared for the festivities rather than allow everything to pile up and get on top of you.
It’s important to stay active all year round, exercise will help you to maintain your health and your fitness and will benefit every cell in your body. But even more important to keep your exercise up over winter. Instead of walking or biking places, you are more likely to drive or take public transport to avoid the bad weather. So for this reason, you need to make an extra effort to keep fit and keep your activity levels up. Being out in the cold is probably off the agenda, but you could go to the gym and using the exercise machines alone, take a dance class such as Zumba with a friend, or even join up to a sport. Tennis, badminton and squash all have indoor courts. You could go trampolining, swimming, yoga or anything else you fancy. Even activities like gardening can help to get your heart rate up, if you have a day that’s not too cold it’s a good way to get prepared outdoors before the worst of the weather hits.
In the summer when the weather is nice, it’s easy to get everyone together. A picnic after work, a barbeque at the weekend or a day out somewhere scenic. However when it’s cold and miserable outside, it’s all too easy to want to wrap up and stay in the house instead and you might not see your friendship group as much. But socialising is so important, keeping close bonds and a support network around you is good for mental health and general wellbeing, and spending time with those we love makes us happier. How about inviting everyone over for a dinner party or a movie night? Or you could go to places that don’t involve being outside- with Christmas around the corner you could go to a shopping mall and buy some presents together while enjoying the festivities.
There’s no denying that cold weather makes us all want to leap into our bed under the covers and hibernate! If you’re carrying a ‘sleep debt’ where you consistently don’t get enough, winter is a good time to pay this back. Particularly if you have time off over the holiday. The dark nights and dark mornings combined with time off work make it easy to sleep longer and catch up on some much-needed sleep. Relax in a hot, pampering bath and go to bed with a hot water bottle or an electric blanket. Get cosy and be sure to sleep well. You will strengthen your immune system, improve your mental health and provide lots of benefits to your body as well.