The colder months provide us with a certain nostalgia, of changing foliage and winter wonderland memories. Don't let this cold season be tainted with feeling less than your best.
As the weather gets colder and more friends to start getting the flu, it's time to take a step back and look into what we should be doing for our own health this holiday season.
You may hear time and time again that your body is a temple and you should treat it as such, but have you taken the time to think about what that means for your busy lifestyle?
The following tips for staying healthy in the colder months may come as obvious to you, but really think about if you do in fact focus on these parts of your health every week. Sometimes we need a simple reminder in the form of a blog post to get us back on track and thinking about putting our health first.
You'll notice that this guide to staying healthy is not just about nutrition, although that's a big part of it. Health begins with a balance of wellness in both the mind and body.
If you're eating nutritious food but constantly stressed about little things at work, you will not reach your full health potential. Likewise, if you're starting to exercise every day but never getting enough sleep at night, you probably won't feel at all energized or happy the next day.
Read through this list, take it in, and start to realize how interconnected every aspect of our mind and body are in terms of health. Try to hit each one of these goals for a month straight and see if you notice a difference in how you feel. It may seem like a lot of different aspects to focus on right now, but once you get into the habit, you will thank yourself later.
Hydration is Key
Hydration, hydration, hydration...hydration. The fact is, it's hard for the average person to stay properly hydrated throughout the day, to reach that impossible 8 glasses of water.
The best advice I can give you is it's all about making it a habit. When you wake up, have a glass of water with your morning coffee. Before you go to bed at night, drink a glass of water. Instead of reaching for that coke at lunchtime, you guessed it, reach for water instead.
Some people have a hard time enjoying the taste (or lack thereof) of water. If you're one of those, opt for sparkling flavored water or hot tea.
Goal: Stay conscious of how much water you are getting a day, and always try to one-up yourself until you reach your personal goal of water intake.
Focus on a Nutritious Diet
The winter can be the hardest time to have a nutritious diet, there are so many indulgences around this time of the year it's very easy to slip into bad habits.
Instead of the warm comfort foods or canned overly-salted soups that are taunting you, try making your own soups and stews from home with fresh winter vegetables that have vitamins and nutrients. Sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, and beetroot are all great winter vegetables to try in a soup.
It's great if your diet also includes plenty of lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and uses a lot of herbs and spices to round it out.
Try to eliminate sugar as much as possible - I realize this is easier said than done with the giant hollow chocolate Santas popping up in the grocery store these days.
Goal: Try to go a whole month with little to no sugar in your diet (before Christmas!) and make 2 new homemade soups with delicious winter vegetables.
There's no doubt about it, it's hard to exercise regularly as it starts getting colder outside. Your body's natural response is to curl up under mountains of blankets and watch Netflix marathons while sipping hot cocoa.
I get it, I really do, but you have to start thinking about your body too! If it's more attractive, think of moving your exercise indoors where it's warmer. At the gym, or at home with weights, or a yoga mat and your ability to do jumping jacks. Whatever will keep you moving, do that.
If you're more of the runner type or still want to spend time moving around outdoors, make sure to spend extra time warming up your joints inside to avoid any unnecessary strains or discomforts.
Goal: Exercise 3x a week for 1-2 hours at a time. If you're feeling adventurous, try out a few different types of exercise - both indoors and outdoors - to see what motivates you the most.
Stress is like Grinch. It takes everything happy out of your life and puts it into a pinhole perspective of negativity. And ironic enough, the most stressful time of the year is usually around the holidays.
A small amount of stress can be good and keep you motivated to do what you need to get done. For the most part; however, stress is a very, very bad thing to give into.
Some of us lead much more stressful lives than others, usually depending on our socioeconomic status or our careers. Regardless of your amount of stress in life, there are always ways to at least try to reduce it or combat it completely. A lot of those de-stressing tactics use the idea of mindfulness.
Taking a step back to survey your life and the root of your stress can be incredibly successful in making you realize either how unimportant that stressful item is in the scheme of things, or how unhelpful stress is in working through the issue.
Goal: Take up a mindfulness hobby this month - whether that be yoga, meditation, or singing away your blues in the shower. Whatever works for your personality and gets you out of your stress bubble.
Get Enough Sleep
This is such an important tip to follow in life and one that's hard to adhere to sometimes in our busy lives. Sleep allows your body to recover and renew.
Similar to an iPhone that's low on the battery charge and stressing you out with the chance it could shut down on you, your body can get overwhelmed mentally and physically a lot quicker with a lack of sleep.
Everybody is different in the amount of sleep you need, and it also depends on how active you are on a day-to-day basis. In general, it's best to set aside 7-9 hours of sleep a night for your body to rest and feel good the next day.
Goal: For the next month, never dip below 7 hours of sleep. Download an app such as sleep cycle onto your phone, which records your sleep patterns and gives you insight on how your sleep could be better depending on your lifestyle.
Wash Your Hands
You may think this is an obvious recommendation, but I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a public bathroom stall, heard the stall door open next to me and footsteps echoing out the door without a squeeze of soap or a hint of water spilled from the faucet.
That my friends are what I call gross. And more importantly, unsanitary. So many germs are spread from not washing our hands before cooking, after taking out the trash, and yes, even after using the bathroom.
Take that extra minute to let the tap warm up and use hot soapy water to wash your hands properly.
Goal: This should be a life goal - always wash your hands after using the bathroom. That goes for you too, guys!
Although a nutritious diet is one of the most important gifts you can give to your body, sometimes you need an extra little kick in immunity as well. We've talked a lot on this blog about how you can boost immunity and why it's important to do so.
Our Herbal Papaya Leaf Tea is a great way to stay warm on those cold nights and boost your immunity for the rainy days when you need it most.
However, there are a variety of ways you can go about boosting your immunity depending on your preference. Echinacea, garlic, vitamin C, and zinc are also great for supporting a healthy immune system, whether you decide to take supplements or find them in fresh foods.
It could also be the time to start thinking about getting that flu shot if you haven't already yet.
Goal: Focus on boosting your immunity once a day through herbal tea, food that contains one of the immune-boosting elements above, or through a daily supplement.
Stay in Contact With Loved Ones
Don't you always feel a rush of contentment or happiness after a long catch-up on the phone with a friend/mom/dad/you name it that you really love?
How about when you get a surprise postcard in the mail from your daughter who's living across the country right now? How about just making a house call to your grandma who lives down the street?
Not only is life short and we'll never truly know how much time we have with our loved ones, but these interactions provide you with a type of social proof and acceptance that makes you feel part of a community. This is very important to our mental wellbeing as humans.
In other words, these connections make you feel loved and respected, they tend to make you have a positive outlook on life, and thus provide you with a healthy mindset. Plus, it never hurts to make others around you feel nice and fuzzy inside.
Goal: Send a few handmade notes in the mail this month to people you respect and love, just to say hi and let them know you're thinking of them.
Surround Yourself with Natural Light
Did you know that on average about 4 to 6 percent of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD? Up to 10 to 20 percent of people can have a mild version of it, and SAD is also four times more common in women than it is in men.
There are a few ways to combat this type of seasonal sadness, but one of the best ways is through light therapy. You can do this by purchasing a light box and/or surrounding yourself in places that provide a lot of natural lighting.
I'm attracted to places with a lot of natural light because I know it makes me feel happy, whether that be in a new cafe or the apartment that I choose to lease. I'm not the minority in thinking this way either, natural light has proven to be effective it making people feel content, happy, productive, and even inspired creatively.
Unfortunately, with the colder months and the lessening sunshine, natural light isn't always possible or easily accessible. When this happens, try out a light box and see if it makes a difference in your overall wellbeing this winter.
Goal: Find a new cafe to go to in the morning that has great natural light, and notice if it makes you feel overall more happy when you start your day there.
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As I've said before and I'll say it again, our happiness and wellbeing our interlinked by a multitude of aspects in life pertaining to our health. I hope you'll try out a few of these tips and notice a difference this holiday season in your energy levels and health.
As Andy Williams once said, "it's the most wonderful time of the year". Don't let poor health spoil a time meant for appreciating your family, friends, and the little things in life that make us happy.
Suggested Article: Staying Active When It's Cold Outside