Yesterday was officially the first day of winter. I couldn’t believe it when my coworker mentioned it to me. Was she kidding?, “what were those last two weeks of -20 degree weather then?!” After a quick Google search, it turns out she was correct, yesterday was December 21st; the first day of winter. I had been so proud of myself during Calgary’s recent cold snap. I had signed up for hot yoga and thought I was making my way through winter in stellar fashion, yet winter hadn’t even begun. Momentarily, I was struck with the blues, as I pondered the dark days ahead (literally). But, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It may take a little bit more deliberate thought and action on our part, but we Canadians must make the most of winters!
A few easy ways us average non-skiing folks can stay positive and healthy this winter:
For a lot of us, exercise is a part of our regular wellness routine no matter what the season. During the winter it is cold and dark outside, so we may need to be a bit more creative and persuasive to get motivated.
For those of you that enjoy the gym setting, just try and stick to your routine, don’t let the darkness fool you into thinking it is time for bed. If you are like me and gyms aren’t for you, then those cold days can be particularly difficult. Hot yoga is a great winter activity. I like yoga, but am by no means a yogi and usually only get a membership in the winter, because that hot room is so appealing during those cold winter days. Challenging yourself can also be motivating, so get an unlimited month pass and try doing a 30 day yoga challenge. Thirty days of yoga goes by quick, you will knock an entire month of winter off, and feel rejuvenated and detoxified after.
For us runners, it’s just a matter of getting the right shoes, a head lamp and bundling up. Sometimes people make excuses about not being able to run in the winter because it’s cold and dark, but don’t let that stop you! Bundle up and generate tons of body heat by doing intervals (when it’s not too slippery of course), and a head lamp can light your way so you aren’t twisting an ankle. Headlamps are light weight and cheap, so no excuses!
There are also lots of winter specific sports, like the obvious skiing and snowboarding. But, also snowshoeing, cross country skiing, skating, tobogganing, and for the really adventurous ice climbing.
Be creative; and don’t let the winter pass you by.
2.Vitamin D & 'happy foods':
The best way to absorb vitamin D is to get out in the sunshine. This can be difficult for those that work the typical 9-5, and spend most of their personal time during the week in the dark. So, try your best to get out on the weekends, or walk at lunch on a sunny warm day. Research has shown that vitamin D may play a role in regulating our mood, so not only is it hard to get during the winter, but it is vital at this time of year when things can seem gloomier than they are. Food sources include: salmon, eggs, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and mushrooms. Another option would be a vitamin D supplement, but I really encourage you to try and get it from natural sources.
Daily recommendations for vitamin D are:
Some research has shown that light therapy can help with a condition known as SAD; Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy boxes, or light visors can give off a light that mimics outdoor light. I have used a visor like this in the past, my advice is; be to be careful where you are walking and don’t wear it out of the house. It shines the light just down towards your eyes from the brim of the visor which makes it harder to tell where you are going, and they look completely dorky. However, I do think it helped. It only takes about 20 to 30 minutes a day of exposure to this type of light to help with mood, and some studies have shown it can even increase energy levels.
I still think getting outside in the fresh air is the best cure for most ailments, but for those cloudy, cold days supplementing the real deal with these light treatments could be quite beneficial.
4.Oxytocin: Cuddle up to stay warm
And, finally my favourite tip to shake off those winter blues. Cuddle up on the coach with your favourite person, or snuggle with your puppy. Oxytocin, is often call the ‘love’ hormone and is released when you hug someone. Research has shown that hugging someone, shaking their hand or even just thinking fondly about someone can release oxytocin. This hormone has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and lift your mood!
Winter is the perfect excuse to get the fireplace going and get cozy with someone you love!
When it’s cold and dark outside, creat warmth and light from within!
For more information on S.A.D, and ways to combat the winter blues check out this article:
How to Fight the Winter Blues Effectively