As the nights draw in and colder days replace the relative warmth of fall, colds and viruses begin to become more prevalent. Many people report feeling less ‘well’ in winter – citing lower energy levels, aches and pains, bugs, stomach upsets, coughs and sniffles. This is often down to the changing seasons and impact of weather coupled with a tendency to carry on with lifestyle choices that serve us well at other times of year, but can actually contribute to feelings of sickness and general lack of vitality during winter.
Harnessing the wisdom of Ayurveda to thrive during winter
Unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda recognizes the need for seasonal lifestyle changes to ensure the body flows and thrives through each portion of the year. No matter where we’re based or what the weather is like, understanding Ayurveda allows us to be guided both by our bodies and external elements to enable us to feel fit and healthy all year round. These simple, easy tips will help you to feel balanced, energized and well during winter, building new habits you can use each year as soon as the temperatures start to dip.
Stay hydrated, and make sure you’re stocking up on seasonal fruits and vegetables including squash, kale, cabbage, root vegetables, pears and apples. It can be tempting to overindulge on comfort foods during winter, especially with so many holidays during this season, but meals heavy on salt and fat can lower our vitality levels and make us more susceptible to picking up colds and flu. Limit indulgent foods as much as possible, and when consuming alcohol, be sure to drink plenty of water and consider a detox post-party to bring your body back into balance.
It’s fine to treat yourself once in a while, especially on special occasions, but be sure to maintain a healthy, wholefoods-based diet otherwise to help your body heal and stay healthy in spite of the festivities.
Common concerns that arise during winter time, such as depleted energy levels and low mood, can often be addressed with lifestyle changes and supplementation. There are a host of vitamins and nutrients that must be maintained in order to keep our immune systems at optimal performance, including zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C. If seasonal stress is an issue for you, try our Serenease blend to soothe the nervous system and take the edge off anxiety and restore a sense of calm and balance.
Of course, if you suspect any deficiencies or are taking any other medications, it is important to speak with your MD first to determine which supplements may be best for you.
Massage, or Abhyanga, is vital at all times of year, but especially during winter months. Self-massage or professional treatment with warming, nourishing oils helps to increase circulation, ensuring blood flow reaches the extremities. This is important for anyone suffering with Reynaud’s, chilblains or other issues affecting the hands and feet that can flare during colder weather.
The regular application of oils also helps with another common winter complaint – dry skin. The combination of being in extreme cold outside and dry heat indoors can wreak havoc with our skin’s delicate moisture balance – so using gentle natural oils can restore and hydrate the skin to prevent any soreness, itching and flaking associated with winter.
If your ‘get up and go’ feels like it’s got up and gone as soon as the weather turns cold, you’re not alone. A lot of people start to feel their energy and motivation levels dip as the temperatures turn colder and daylight hours decrease. The key to remaining active and maintaining healthy energy levels during winter is to embrace this seasonal change – tap into the natural circadian rhythm and embrace the opportunity to rest, maintaining a gentle activity schedule. This can be hard if you work 9-5 – getting up in the dark, and getting home after the sun has gone down. Some tips to help your body to readjust to the new season include:
*Get up early with the sun, and spend as much time as possible in daylight. If you work indoors, make sure you spend your breaks outside
*Reduce blue light exposure, especially at night
*Go to bed early – the earlier the better, and wake up early
*Go to bed and rise at the same times each day
*Combine daily activity with time outside – go for a run or a walk out in nature, ride a bike or even try wild swimming
These habits can take a bit of getting used to, but once you’re in a good natural rhythm you’ll feel you have more energy to keep up your activity routine.
Turn up the heat
If you pride yourself on having a healthy lifestyle and love to load up on fresh, raw foods during the summer, it’s important to change up your daily diet come winter and swap out those smoothies, juices and salads for warm, nourishing alternatives. Think soups, dhal, stews and one-pot pastas and pies – packed with as many nutrients as possible and served with a generous side of vegetables. For breakfast, porridge or bircher muesli is a great option which provides plenty of energy for the day ahead. Try sprinkling with hemp and pumpkin seeds for that extra protein hit!