Although Winter is technically done, the chilly weather can’t seem to decide whether it should stay or go. Thankfully, there has been a good amount of sunshine this past winter which can definitely have a positive affect on your mood! Even though I’m a winter baby (my birthday is January 25!) and I love some cozy nights in with a good snowfall, like everyone else I start to feel at this point of the year that it’s time for a change. Whether that means a change in season, giving yourself new challenges (how are those New Year’s Resolutions? wink wink, nudge nudge), or going on a trip to a sunny destination, it’s important that you check in with yourself. What does that mean? Well, a variety of things, actually.
We have already passed “Blue Monday” , the third Monday of January that is supposed to be the most depressing day of the winter, and while it may be a good thing that we have passed it, maybe we don’t feel any better on the other side of it. Now that the holidays are over and sunshine is less frequent, you may be feeling like you have nothing else to look forward to. If you have noticed that your energy is low, your digestion is off, your motivation is low, you keep getting sick and you’re aching for some sunshine and straight up sick of the weather…I’ve got news for you!
Below I have compiled 5 ways to beat the winter blues so that you can actually enjoy winter!
Is this list complete? Nah. There are tons of ways to beat the winter blues, but these are the ones that I find give the best results.
1. Incorporate Essential Winter Nutrients:
What’s one thing that can happen in the colder months that makes everyone miserable? Getting sick, am I right?Nobody likes getting sick in the colder months, or at any time, really. There are a few things you can do to boost your immunity simply by adding some different foods into your diet with specific immuno-boosting nutrients. Staying sick-free is sure to keep your spirits high!
It’s common knowledge nowadays that the sun is the best source of Vitamin D. But, what happens in the winter when there is less sunshine? Simply put, your immune system, mood and happiness could suffer. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is caused by the lack of Vitamin D and affects a lot of people. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body and can be produced in the body, however, it needs sun for this conversion. If the sun is shining during the colder months, try your best to get outside and enjoy it. The photo above was taken on New Year’s Day while Jonathan and I were doing our annual New Year’s walk. It was cold but the sunshine made it bearable and it was neat to see a more peaceful, icy and quiet side of the beach. If the sun isn’t shining, you can get Vitamin D from the food sources below:
Eggs (specifically the yolk)
Cod liver oil
Fish like herring, sardines, salmon, tuna
Mushrooms (and lots of them!)
Alternatively, supplementing with Vitamin D is also beneficial to boost your mood and immune system.
Vitamin C is an important one this time of year because of the immune support that it offers. If you wanna make sure you avoid the usual viral and bacterial infections, incorporate some berries, citrus fruits, spinach and broccoli into your diet to amp up your Vitamin C and bioflavonoids intake! Vitamin C immobilizes viruses and bacteria, neutralizes their toxins and increases white blood cell mobility. Bioflavonoids are antioxidant-rich nutrients from plants that increase the absorbability of Vitamin C so that it can be used more effectively in the body. Whole food sources are always the best sources, but you can definitely supplement as well, especially when you feel a cold coming on. Be sure the formula includes bioflavonoids for better absorption.
Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, etc
Essential Fatty Acids
You’ve probably heard of Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s, right? These are essential fatty acids and they are “essential” because the body cannot make them. EFA’s must be supplied by food to create cell membranes, hormones and support the immune system. They also help reduce inflammation in the body and can help give you hydrated, smooth skin. As always, it is best to get your nutrients from whole food sources, but you can also supplement with liquid or capsule forms of EFA’s from fish oils or algae oils. I find it really easy to sprinkle hemp hearts on everything I eat.
Some whole food sources include:
Freshly ground flax seeds
Probiotics (with Prebiotics)
Probiotics are all the rage these days–and for good reason! They replenish your gut bacteria with good, beneficial bacteria. Why do you want this? Well, in the Winter especially, we can all use some extra fighting forces to boost our immune system, which is what probiotics do! Our gut bacteria contains 70% of our immune system, which means this gut bacteria is fighting off pathogens fiercely so that we don’t get sick and to keep our systems running smoothly. Gut bacteria is also responsible for optimal digestion. They eat indigestible fibre which our digestive enzymes cannot break down. Pretty cool, right? The even cooler part is that PREbiotics (note the “pre”) are what gut bacteria feast on! Prebiotics are essentially the nutrients for the probiotics in our gut. If you think of the gut like a garden, the probiotics are the plants and the prebiotics would be the sunshine, water and soil that feed the probiotics. While you can definitely take these two things in supplement form, it is always best to get them from whole food sources like the ones below:
Hydration is something that is important during all seasons, but it seems to be a tricky thing to maintain for a lot of people during the Winter. While it may be nice to load up on hot chocolates, coffee and red wine during the colder months to keep warm, water is the only liquid you really need and should be drinking. Why? Water is the basis of our bodily fluids. It makes up 81% of our blood, sweat, tears, digestive juices, urine and 20% of our total body water is used for the lymphatic system. While all of these liquids are extremely important, I want to draw your attention to a lesser known system called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of lymph nodes and a lymphatic stream that runs along side the blood stream, and is responsible for transporting lymphocytes (white blood cells) throughout the body, trapping foreign substances like viruses and bacteria, and pulling toxins from the blood stream. During the Winter months especially when we may be less inclined to chug water like we would on a hot Summer’s day, we need to insure we support this system to fend off cold and flu viruses. Water, muscle contractions, breathing and high-impact movement allow the lymphatic system to do its job.
Tip: Drinking at least half your body’s weight in ounces is a good amount to start with.
3. Don’t Forget to MOVE
Don’t let the chilly weather scare you. It can actually be a lot of fun to get outside considering the variety of activities you can do for free! Skating, tobogganing, skiiing, or simply hiking are just a few of the things you can do when even with a lot of snow on the ground (note: hiking in the snow, uphill, with your niece sitting in the toboggan is a LOT harder than it sounds–haha). Besides, that fresh air can do you some good!
I recently discovered the trails behind Evergreen Brick Works and I’m a little embarrassed it took me so long to discover. Nonetheless, I’ll definitely be going back a few more times this season and in the summer. Speaking of Brick Works, you can even make an outing of your grocery shopping by visiting local farmers’ markets in the winter, like Brick Works and Wychwood Barns to name a few. They often have live music, tons of samples from the farmers and artisans, and lots of friendly faces open to a friendly chat. You also get a reason to walk around a lot and explore.
If you feel like leaving the city for a day trip, Ontario is home to lots of neat and exciting spots to get your thirst for nature satisfied. The water falls of Hamilton have been a huge hit this Winter, and lots of people have been flocking to them to bask in their beauty. Don’t feel confined to your home. Go out and explore! Better yet, if you know anyone with a cottage up north, take advantage of that friendship! :p
If you’re really not into the whole outside-exploration-like-a-true-Canadian thing, use your indoor time to get your buns into shape! You can go to some fitness drop-in classes with a buddy, go swimming at your community centre, or simply exercise in your home with a few dumbbells. If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try out a fun dance class? If you hop on Groupon, there are tons of ways to try out new classes for reduced introductory rates. Or, check out your local yoga studio to see if they have Community or Karma classes, which will allow you to drop in and do a class at a reduced rate! Maintaining consistent movement is really important for your immune health and overall health and happiness.
Self-care is important any time of year. During the colder months with the lack of sunshine, incorporating different self-care tactics may be more important to fend off Seasonal Affective Disorder and to maintain your immunity towards cold and flu viruses, to name a few reasons. Maintaining overall happiness and productivity in your career and personal life are a few others. Giving yourself the chance to completely relax and breeeeeathe is a rare occurrence if you’ve got a stacked schedule. Self-care isn’t just about manicures and drinking wine in a hot bath (although those do sound pretty nice!) Self-care is a little different for everyone depending on your preferences and what makes you feel good about yourself and relaxed. For Jonathan, self-care means going to the gym at least 4-5 times a week. It’s a great way to relieve stress while also benefiting his physique and longterm health. Likewise, investing in your health with a Personal Trainer (such as Jonathan) or a Nutritionist (like myself :)) is a great way to get the right guidance and education about how to care for your body and meet your health goals.
My self-care involves going for walks and I will choose to walk instead of driving or taking the TTC if I feel like I need more “me” time. Connecting with nature is especially important to reduce the effects of EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies emitted from our cell phones, computers, etc. which can wreak havoc on our own frequencies.) and to ensure you are taking in fresh air. I find ideas and emotions are more clarified when I’ve spent time in nature. Taking time away from your errands to allow your mind some “white noise” can actually make you more productive and creative since you’ve allowed your mind to process things aside from checking off your to-do list with efficiency. I find that my mind is often strategizing my day based on what time I should leave for work, what I’ll make for dinner, etc. Does that sound like you too? These mindful walks give my mind a break from this strategizing of my errands, and allow me to just be. It is often during these times that I come up with new ideas for my business, recipe ideas, travel ideas, and so on.
Another self-care tactic involves my kitchen. I have to set aside time every week to get creative in the kitchen. I love coming up with new recipes, so making sure I have that time to be creative instead of simply following a recipe or making an old recipe to prep food for the week, is really important to me. And, it benefits you because I love to post my new creations and inspire my followers to try new recipes.
Lastly, hot yoga is something I wish I did more often and I’m making an effort to do it more. I love a good sweat session and stretching out the tension from my body is a great way to end the work week. You don’t have to go to a studio to do it. Nowadays there are tons of free Yoga apps that guide you through a practice. Alternatively, you can go to drop-in classes in studios if you don’t want to commit to a monthly membership. I really enjoy Karma nights at Moksha Yoga on Friday nights. The classes are $8 minimum and the proceeds are donated to a variety of charities that change monthly. Check it out here.
What are your favourite things to do that relieve your stress and allow you to get creative?
Make a list of at least 10 things you wish you could do more of every week.
Try to do at least 2 of those things on your time off of work. You may be surprised how much more relaxed/fulfilled/energized you feel throughout the week.
5. Change your Perspective
Breaking away from your usual perspectives of watching Netflix or reading from the same news outlets will allow you to engage and learn new information in a new way. During the colder months, there are always a variety of workshops, lectures, art installations, and so on, that can pique your interest and engage and challenge your thinking. And, if you’re like me and totally miss learning in a classroom, there are so many ways you can still do that–minus the annoying grading systems and evaluations.
One of my favourite ways to learn new things is to attend the free Thursday night lecture series at The Big Carrot. The topics are modern and relevant to living in today’s society. From immune health (which I spoke about in January! See picture above.), baby formula, organizational tips, to plant-based diet recommendations, there is something for everyone. The lectures are 1.5 hours and are packed with information. The best part is that you get to engage with your community and ask questions.
Going to a concert, trying out a pottery class, going to a cooking class are just a few other things you could try out during the colder months. Go alone, go with your partner or your best buds to make it more fun. Learn a new skill and further your personal development. Check out eventbrite to see what neat events are going on in your neighbourhood!
I hope this post has inspired you to swap out your negative association with the colder months and has motivated you to take advantage of the cooler temperature. Learn a new skill, take care of yourself, bond with your partner and friends in a fitness class, or whatever else floats your boat. At the end of the day, the cold weather is temporary and before you know it, you’ll be hanging out at the beach. Embrace it while it’s here. Lose the negativity and find happiness in a new skill or activity. Life’s too short to constantly complain about the weather. 😉