#4 in the Winter Wellness Series
So far, in this winter wellness series, we’ve chatted about exercising outdoors, seasonal affective disorder, and comfort eating, but these are the tip of the iceberg (bad pun intended) when it comes to feeling our best this time of year. Here are five more tactics for tackling these final, gloomy, chilly weeks of winter. Maybe you already employ them. Maybe they’ll stir you to slightly tweak a habit or two. Here's hoping they help to make this home stretch of winter a little more pleasant.
Limit Couch Time
Relaxation is ALWAYS enjoyable, regardless of the season. In fact, restoring and stepping back from daily stress is a must for good health. However, society in general is spending A LOT of time without moving, and most likely a good chunk of it, especially during this pandemic period, is more connected to distraction than renewal. We all know a tendency to be sedentary sets us up for serious health problems. (For some alarming but possibly eye opening info on why this is so, check out the SomeBODY Strong post, Sedentary? That's Dangerous.) If you’re sitting for hours & hours, even though you might exercise for 30-60 minutes a day, you might want to track your sedentary time and ask if you could be adding just a bit more movement to your day. For example, if you lounge while listening to podcasts, you can just as easily listen while walking. Some of my own best brainwork happens while pedaling on my home elliptical, so that's when I often write. (Not only do I meet my little, weekly blog deadline but my body feels a whole lot better than it does at a desk!)
Keep the Produce Coming
Are you someone who practically squeals when the spring farm markets open? Do visions of melon, berries, peaches, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and lettuces dance in your head?Although the local farms take a winter hiatus, we technically have no reason to skip produce. It’s not the 1950s. (You knew that.) Tons of options abound, and most are pretty much as equally nourishing as summer fare. US citizens have the good fortune of produce aisles filled with fruits & vegetables shipped from across the continent and from the one south of us. Frozen and canned produce, if not pumped with added sugar or sodium, present excellent options, too. (In fact, those big bags of frozen berries make smoothies a cinch.) Did you know that in 2015 the CDC estimated that only 9% of Americans ate the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables? Guidelines recommend we consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of veggies a day. Join the small group that does this, and folks will wonder why YOU feel so good this winter.
Drink Lots of Water
We tend to think of dehydration during sweaty summer months because it can pose such dramatic risks when severe. But we can lose fluids in winter’s dry, cold air, too. Dehydration in cold weather seems subtle because we may not find ourselves drenched in sweat. Perspiration evaporates more quickly & we might not even think to take a drink. When you breathe out in cold air, you literally see dehydration in the clouds of water vapor you expel. So, keep the water coming, no matter the season.
Stay In Touch
I often think about how completely different my neighborhood seems in July versus January. In summer, a stream of neighbors passes our porch around suppertime, many waving & calling hello. (It’s not quite the famous Italian evening stroll, but it’s pretty hoppin’.) In winter, a blast of wind could blow you down to the bluff overlooking the Ohio River, and not a soul would hear you howl! No, this has not happened to me, but... in theory, it could. In other words, we already practically hibernate in winter, and THIS winter has pushed most of us into abnormal levels of social isolation. Interacting with other humans is essential to health. It’s why Great Britain installed a Minister of Loneliness in 2018. Stay in touch with family & friends. You might even pinkie swear with someone to schedule outdoor or Facetime dates.
Stick to a Schedule
No matter the season, when we want to adhere to healthy habits, a schedule serves us well, but this seems especially true in winter. It’s so EASY to stay in bed or inside when it’s cold, so easy to delay the week’s grocery shopping for a nicer day, so easy to let healthy routines slide until spring. It can’t be THAT far away, right? But you could find yourself feeling kind of crummy for weeks. To stay on track, schedule everything that trips you up—workouts, meditation, sleep, and/or meals—or at least, make a checklist for the day. Structure is a huge benefit when winter days blend together.
So, there you have it, the 4th in a series of humble suggestions for holding onto wellbeing this winter. Come back to these should you hit a February or March slump. They may just lift your quality of life during a season that requires extra vigilance.