16 tips to preparing for a healthy and positive winter


Last week, I started a series on hygge by talking about the importance of light in the darker months.  The hygge series will be continuing on alternate weeks, so this week, I wanted to take a broader look at preparing mind and body for a healthy and positive winter.  I’ve listed ? actionable tips to help you through the dark and cold months to follow.

Clothing

1. Layer up and use breathable fabrics as much as possible

While there’s still a place for traditional winter clothes, it has to be recognized that lifestyles have changed dramatically since the creation of classic staples like the woollen winter coat.  If your lifestyle means that you are regularly moving in and out of places with different temperatures (e.g. out of a warm house into the cold street then into a warm car then into a cold street then into a warm office), then you are probably best to look at layers and breathable fabrics.

2. Use a scarf round your nose and mouth to warm the air before it hits your lungs

Little edges can add up to big wins.  Cold air is harsh on your lungs, give them a little love.

3. Use fingerless gloves or smartphone gloves

Instead of faffing about taking gloves on and off every time you want to use your phone, either use fingerless ones (perhaps the sort that also have a mitten cover) or invest in gloves which are designed to be used with smartphones.

Food and drink

4. Prepare/stock up on supplies of food to eat when you’re under the weather

You are probably going to get at least a cold at some point, so be prepared to make life easy on yourself and have a supply of food you can prepare and eat easily.  Tins of soup are an obvious choice, perhaps cans of complete meals too.  If you have space also consider stocking up on basic essentials such as toilet roll so you can focus all your energy on getting better rather than wasting it on a trip to the shops.

5. Eat plenty of foods which are rich in fibre, protein and/or complex carbohydrates

Let’s be honest, winter can easily turn into the season of junk food and in my experience, the real danger point with junk food is when you are genuinely hungry, or at least peckish, and it’s nearby.  Eating meals rich in fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates will help to keep you fuller for longer in the first place and keeping some healthy and filling snacks with you (such as nuts and seeds) will give you an alternative to diving for unhealthy treat foods just because they’re there and you genuinely do need food.

6. Pay attention to vital nutrients

You still need your vitamins and minerals in winter and fortunately there are plenty of seasonal foods which can give you everything you need.  Ideally you should address your nutritional needs through diet rather than supplements, but in the real world, if you do find yourself low on vitamins and minerals, then you may want to look at increasing your intake through supplements, at least during the winter.

7. Keep up your liquid intake but lay off the alcohol and go easy on the caffeine

Cold air and central heating are both dehydrating so it’s important to keep up your liquid intake.  Keep alcohol to a minimum, however, (if at all) and if you must drink, aim to stick to long drinks such as beers and spritzers or spirits with a lot of mixer rather than short drinks.  First of all, alcohol can impair your immune system at a time when it’s fighting off bugs left, right and centre and secondly winter brings ice and snow and having reduced balance and coordination can lead to accidents.  Caffeine is best kept in moderation at any time of year but it’s easy to start consuming a lot of it in the form of hot drinks so try to keep to lower caffeine versions of them.

General self care

8. Take care of your skin with sun protection and moisturizer

The sun can still be strong in winter, even though it’s bitterly cold.  It may therefore be appropriate to use sun protection and you are certainly going to need plenty of moisturizer.

9. Get outside for fresh air and vitamin D

It may be tempting to stay indoors as much as possible but getting out into the fresh air really does do you good and even better if you can get out in daylight and make the most of the available sunlight to boost your body’s supply of vitamin D.  If you’re going out into an open area where there is snow, it may be best to use sunglasses to give protection against the reflection of the sun on the snow.

10. Get exercise or at least get up to boost your circulation

We all know exercise has all kinds of health benefits and, if anything, they’re even more important in winter, but if you really can’t face getting active at least keep yourself moving as much as possible for the sake of your circulation.

11. Have a stock of cough and cold remedies in your house

Similar comments to stocking up on food.  I particularly recommend balsam tissues and moisturizer (to compensate for the skin on your nose getting rubbed as you blow it) along with Olbas oil (or a generic equivalent) and, of course, honey, plus your choice of over-the-counter remedies.

12. Learn to love steam

Like exercise, steam has all kinds of benefits for the body and it’s worth at least trying a visit to a sauna or steam bath (or even investing in a steam shower for your home), but if that’s not for you then try giving yourself a steam face bath once a week.  Just put boiling water in a bowl, add your favourite essential oils if you wish, put a towel over your head and the bowl to make a kind of tent and breath in the steam.  This has many benefits including cleaning out your lungs, which, as I’ve already mentioned, have a hard time in winter.

13. Use appropriate essential oils

For the sake of brevity, I’ll refrain from going into detail on essential oils for winter in this post, I may write one later (I am a qualified aromatherapist).  There is plenty of information on the net, just remember to use essential oils safely, in particular never drink them (or add them to food) or apply them neat to the skin, always dilute them well first.

Mental health

14. Listen to your body and mind, perhaps keep a journal

Your body and mind will both tell you how they’re feeling and you need to make time to listen to them however busy you are.  Journaling may help with this.

15. Stay social, ideally both offline and online

It can be really tempting to go into hibernation in winter, but it’s important to avoid being a “fair-weather friend”, keep up your social networks and if you’re in a new place or situation (e.g. a new job) actively work on building them.

16. Think about your winter stress points and address them

If you’re dreading winter in general and/or Christmas in particular then have an honest think about why, specifically, you dislike it and then address those points.  You might want to take a look at my previous post about preparing for a positive Christmas.

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