Longer Reads

5 tips for a healthy, happy winter

As the year draws to a close, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a fun and happy end to 2010 and a wonderful start to 2011.

Take the remaining days of 2010 and think about how you would like to kick off the new year. How much energy would you like to have? What new activities, hobbies, or classes would you like to try? Which healthy habits would you like to pick up (and which less-than-healthy habits would you like to kick to the curb?)

This is a perfect time of year to envision what you want for yourself in the months ahead. Winter is a time for turning inward: a time for introspection, hibernation, and being mindful of your body and what nourishes you best. This allows us to take good care of ourselves so that come springtime, we have the energy to spring into action!

Try incorporating these winter health tips into your daily routine over the next couple of weeks. They will help you feel more balanced, grounded, and ready for the new year ahead.

1) Rest up. Feel like hibernating? You’re not alone! That’s our bodies’ natural response to this time of year. Short days and lack of sunlight mean we require more rest and relaxation than in the energetic seasons of spring or summer. Take this opportunity to put yourself into bed a bit earlier than usual. Cut back on the social activity if it feels too overwhelming. Listen to your body and don’t overdue it. Say no to what doesn’t support you and have you feeling your best.

2) Move it. You’ve heard it before, but it warrants saying again: we need movement in our lives to keep us healthy, fit, and feeling high-energy. But that doesn’t mean you need to have your butt kicked in a boot camp class at the gym or pound the pavement for 10 miles to get good results! (Thank goodness, because I am so not into torturing myself…) what it does mean is getting regular movement into your week in ways that feel good and enjoyable to you. Walking, biking, hiking, gym classes, yoga classes, and martial arts are all great ways to get and stay fit. Experiment and see what appeals to you and feels right for your body type.

3) Stay Seasonal: Craving sweets? Want more balance in your life? Try adding some grounding winter vegetables into your diet and see how you feel. Root veggies (like beets, parsnips, and carrots), winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, etc) and sweet potatoes are designed to support us this time of year (that’s why they’re in season!). Sweet vegetables like these guys soothe the internal organs of the body and energize the mind. And while we don’t necessarily think of them as very “sweet,” our body feels otherwise. That means they help cut down on sweet cravings — big time. Try baking up a batch of my super-easy 15-minute sweet potato “chips”.

4) Drink up. No, not that kind of drink. I am talking about water, and we really need it more than we think this time of year. Winter is a very drying season. Cold weather and winds, the drying heat from radiators, and excess alcohol can all lead to a parched system. It’s also easier to forget our water intake this time of year since we don’t tend to sweat as much. Dehydration can wreak havoc on our skin and our immune system (not to mention pretty much all bodily function) so drink your H2O! Start with 8 glasses a day and up it from there if you do a lot of intense physical activity. Drink a lot of herbal tea? That counts as water too!

5) Find your internal bliss. Feeling overwhelmed by credit card bills, work stress, trying to get everything done in a 24-hour day? That can lead to a less-than-stellar immune system (not to mention feeling down and anxious). While we can’t necessarily change all of our external stress-factors, we can work on our response to stress. Yoga, breath work, and meditation help us achieve an internal calm that chills us out, keeps us grounded, and allows us to enjoy the present moment.

Seek out a local yoga studio or class at your gym. Or you can check out yoga journal’s free, online yoga posts.

Don’t have a lot of time? Check out Andrew Weil’s 3 breathing exercises that are guaranteed to calm you down and have you feeling more peaceful in hardly any time at all.