The winter has a significant toll on our physical and mental health. Every year, seasonal illnesses threaten to derail our physical health, and a lack of vitamin D from sunlight brings on feelings of depression and anxiety for millions.
However, it is possible to boost your health during the colder months, and a winter-specific regime might just give you the boost you need.
Here are a few ways you can optimize your physical and mental health this winter.
Short days, colder temperatures, and more rain usually put us off from doing outdoor activities like running, backpacking, or playing sports. However, it is possible to improve your fitness in the winter, and winter-specific activities can provide a fun way to improve your physical fitness for outdoor activities.
The winter activity you choose really depends on where you live, and what kinds of activities you’ve enjoyed in the past. For example, if you’re looking to improve your endurance, live in a snowy state, and have previously enjoyed hiking, then you should consider snowshoeing or even cross country skiing as a wintertime alternative.
If putting in the miles isn’t your thing, you could want to enroll in a hot yoga class. Your body will appreciate the increase in temperature, and you’ll be able to work on your flexibility while enjoying the heat.
The winter is a good time to build strength. During the winter months, you can gain a little extra weight while you bulk up and gain strength. These winter pounds come shame-free, as you’re usually bundled up in multiple layers and the extra weight insulates you from the cold. That said, you probably shouldn’t go into a massive caloric surplus during the winter unless you’re also engaging in a strenuous strength and conditioning program.
Winter Wellness Toolbox
Finding new activities during the winter months will help maintain your physical and mental health, but you should be aware that the season carries a bad reputation in the health industry for a reason.
To overcome the barriers to your health, you should put together a winter wellness toolbox that you can dip into whenever you’re feeling glum and need support. In general, this toolbox should help you address your physical, mental, and spiritual health to ensure that you remain balanced and healthy. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Physical: your get-up-and-go can go missing in the winter months. Plan for a drop in motivation by building strong interpersonal connections with people who will hold you accountable for your health.
- Mental: you should have two or three self-care activities that will improve your mental health. This can be anything from a light yoga session that helps you hit “reset” or a book that you know will help you see the world from a more positive perspective.
- Spiritual: spirituality is different for different people. You know what’s right for you, but consider going on a long walk in nature, or re-connect with that person who helps you navigate life’s challenges.
Spring Clean (in Winter)
A clean home makes for a happy mind. However, we spend much more time indoors during the shorter winter, so our homes can get out of control quite quickly. In particular, an unclean home environment can affect the following health factors:
- Loss of Sleep
- Increased stress and sickness
- Less socialization due to mess
- Increased anxiety
Some folks are affected by the cleanliness of their homes more than others. However, as a minimum, you should aim to keep the space you sleep and work in as clean and clutter-less as possible. This will ensure that mold doesn’t grow in your bedroom, and maintaining a clean working area will help combat work-related stress.
The winter is a taxing season for your immune system. Common colds and flu are transmitted at a greater rate, and the winter darkness makes it harder for your body to produce sufficient immune responses. If you do fall ill, you should always seek the advice of health professionals who can give you expert advice. However, you can also follow a preventative approach to your health by taking steps to boost your immunity.
The first, and most simple step to improving your immunity is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. A varied intake of leafy greens and sweet citruses will boost the bodies’ production of white blood cells, and the extra vitamins and minerals will improve your immune response.
You should also be more tactful about the amount of sleep you get during the winter. Sleep gives your body time to repair and recover from the day’s activity and can help reduce the stress you feel in day-to-day life. In turn, this reduction of stress will improve your immune response and will help you overcome illnesses and infections.
Simply put, the winter is a difficult time for everyone’s health. The shorter days make it harder to get outside for exercise, and the cold weather can tempt you into eating carb-heavy, unhealthy processed foods. However, by putting together a toolkit to fight the winter blues you can improve your immune system, achieve your physical health goals, and maintain good mental health.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.