Cold weather, freezing temperatures, and short days: Winter is coming, and with it, a natural desire to hunker down, hibernate and hit the comfort foods hard. While I love winter gives us the permission to nest at home and spend time close to the couch, it’s also a prime season to let all of those healthy habits we’ve built up during the previous months fall to the wayside.
Now, more than ever before, we have to protect our physical and emotional well-being, so I’m extra committed this year not to let the winter season go to waste, but to optimize my healthy habits instead, establish new ones, and make the best of it. Here, some simple suggestions on healthy habits to keep when the weather gets cold:
Humidify the air
Winter air is dry air, and it can wreak havoc on our skin, sleep, and general comfort. An air humidifier is a life-saver because it adds moisture back to the air and will help to keep our skin hydrated and reduce the transmission of bacteria and viruses: all good things. I also love filling my home with essential oil diffusers with eucalyptus, lemongrass, or peppermint scents.
Comfort food is OK – in moderation
‘Tis the season to indulge in comfort foods, and it’s natural we are going to gravitate towards indulgent treats that make us feel warm and comforted, but balance is also essential. Go ahead and eat that piece of chocolate cake or a bowl of pasta, but balance those meals with healthier choices like vegetable-forward and meat-free recipes that are big on vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and seasonal produce (cabbages, squash, Brussels sprouts, and beets are all in season and therefore very affordable and fresh). Poor nutrition can affect our immune system and contribute to lower energy levels and mood, all areas we want to boost this time of year, not dampen.
Don’t underestimate the power of exercise
Winter is brutal to maintain our exercise routines, but stopping your fitness regime now will only make it even harder to get back into it come spring. Yes, it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s short days and extra-long nights, but keeping our bodies moving is paramount to our overall well-being. Exercise is proven as a critical stress-reliever, mood-enhancer, and general anxiety buster. It releases endorphins (those happy hormones!) and increases our energy levels and spirits. However hard it feels, get moving as best you can, when you can. It’s less about cranking out an hour-a-day workout and more about moving incrementally throughout our whole day. All of that adds up!
Sunshine is a salve, and we don’t get much of it in the wintertime, so best to capitalize on those stunning winter days when the sky is bright and blue. Plan social walks with friends, hike in the woods, then come back home to hibernate with a cup of tea and a warm blanket. We crave staying indoors during the cold season, but we have to commit to getting outside as much as possible. Staying immobile and idle does more harm than good.
Start a meditation practice
Meditation is another proven way to improve mood and help us better manage stress. It’s also an extraordinary form of self-care. It can take as little as five minutes to get started, and you can find so many free apps online to begin your journey.
Create a sleep routine
Sleep has been a challenge for all of us this past 19 months, and it’s hard to get out of a bad sleep routine once you’re in the throes of it. Because our circadian rhythms change when the days get darker, it’s vital to build strong sleep habits to help us get back into our groove. Set a proper bedtime—every night—and stick to it, as well as wake up the same time every morning. Do not scroll your social media feeds or your phone up to an hour before bedtime, and create a restful space to help prepare you for your sleep ahead, whether that’s a warm bath, reading in bed, or journaling. These habits may seem trite, but they work. Good sleep is all about habitual practices.