Winter is coming: Find out how to boost your wellbeing at this time of year
Tis the season for bone-chilling temperatures and dark and gloomy weather. For a lot of people, it can be especially difficult to feel motivated at this time of year. Getting out of bed is tough and it can be hard to muster the energy in the evening to actually do something, whether that’s meeting with friends and family or even a bit of exercise.
Some people find themselves feeling constantly tired. Or maybe ‘shattered’ is a better word. For some people, these can be signs of an illness but for others, it means we’re feeling a bit run down and struggling to adjust to the shift in season.
But there are some things to look forward to with winter – the fresh and chilly mornings, the clean smell of the cold, winter woollies, box-sets and the build-up to the festive season. But if you’re in need of a little mood boost, there are some practical tips that could help you feel a bit better. Winter can also be the best time of year to really unwind, take it slow and practice some restorative treatments.
Cold weather eating
The cold weather only increases the temptation to eat comfort food and, while it’s natural to crave heartier portions in winter as our bodies need more nutrients to keep our immunity strong, making nutrient-rich choices is the key to staying well. Try warming meals like stews, soups, broths, slow-cooked casseroles and oily fish with plenty of energy-rich root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips.
Top your soups up with spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, curry powder and paprika. Also introduce immune-boosting antioxidants like red peppers, beetroot, berries and pomegranates into your diet and swap summer salads for cooked green leafy veg.
It’s really important to ensure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins at this time of year. Vitamin deficiency can result in many disorders and at the very least can decrease productivity. If you’re feeling like you’re lacking, try a daily multivitamin such as Vitabiotics Wellwoman. Take a leaf out of Tess Daly’s book, the Strictly Come Dancing presenter (who is the face of the brand) says they contain the “necessary vitamins and minerals I need to not only support my immune system, but my skin, hair and nails too which is important in my line of work.” It includes vitamin B12 and folate, which can contribute to the reduction of fatigue.
Also, think about your gut. More and more research is showing a direct link between brain and gut health. Our gut houses trillions of bacteria - the microbiota - that wield a lot of influence when it comes to our body’s mechanisms, especially our mood. A happy gut requires a lot of healthy bacteria to make us feel good, whereas an imbalance of the unfriendly stuff, which can be caused by poor lifestyle choices and a diet lacking in nutrients, can take a toll on our wellbeing.
Specific types of food called prebiotics help feed the good bacteria. You’ll find prebiotics in onions, leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and asparagus. Toss them into your winter soups and stews.
Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut contain living microbes and other microbes that can have beneficial effects on the guts. If you haven’t tried these foods before, go slowly. Also, introduce some probiotics into your diet with homemade yoghurt, cottage cheese and feta cheese (which is filled with lactobacillus plantarum, known for producing anti-inflammatory compounds).
We know the last thing you want to do on a cold day is leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary, as in your life or job depends on it. But it’s important to get some fresh air every day because your mood actually does depend on it. There’s evidence to show that the brain’s levels of serotonin are directly affected by exposure to daylight. In fact, the lack of sunlight in the northern hemisphere affects our levels of the happy neurotransmitter serotonin, according to a study from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Research Institute in Australia.
So get outside for a few minutes every day, whether that’s taking a short walk on your lunch break, keeping the blinds or windows open at work or occasionally swapping the gym for your local park when exercising.
We also need exposure to daylight to get our vitamin D fix in Ireland, where levels can be dangerously low. A deficiency can manifest itself in symptoms such as tiredness, stiffness or cramps or joint pain. We can get vitamin D in oily fish like mackerel and salmon, which we should be aiming to have at least twice a week, or free-range eggs.
Winter is the perfect time to put the brakes on and practice some self-care habits. A lot of people roll their eyes at the term ‘self-care’. It can often get a bad rap as something reserved for those with a lot of disposable income and little else to be doing, people who’ll take any old excuse to indulge. People fear self-care as habits of the self-absorbed but really, it doesn’t have to be.
What self-care really means is that you set aside a few minutes each day to do something for you, something that makes you happy or even just allows all the noise to fade out for a while, a time to recharge.
That might be a lunchtime run, or just getting home at a decent time to allow your mind to unwind with a book or by listening to your favourite podcast before you have to make dinner or put a wash on. Maybe it’s having a bath once a week but adding candles and a glass of wine to the ritual. Or perhaps it’s setting an extra few minutes aside to create regular sleep-promoting habits by cutting back on your phone and laptop habits before bed. Or just really being aware of getting yourself ready for bed by really cleansing and nourishing your skin, meditating or even writing out a plan for the next day so you can take it on with fresh ideas and a positive attitude.
The bottom line is eat well, get enough sleep, exercise daily, drink plenty of water and try to cut back on stress. Annoyingly, the tips we’re told to follow all the time, but they keep popping up because they really do make a difference.
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The comprehensive daily multivitamin contains a wide range of nutrients and trace elements including Evening Primrose and Starflower Oil. Wellwoman vitamins include vitamins B6, B12 and iron, which contribute to normal energy release and immune system function. Wellwoman Original is available in Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, SuperValu, supermarkets and pharmacies, health stores including Holland & Barrett. Alternatively order online here.