Winter is here… and for some of us (ahem, Vermont) it will be sticking around for quite a while. So I decided to compile this list of tried and true tactics for you. Try them on, see what you think, and as always, post your insights and additional ideas in the comments below. Merry Winter and a Happy, Healthy New Year. xo
1. Create a morning ritual
According to ayurveda, winter is the season governed by vata (the cold, dry, airy and ethereal energies). This means that there is a lot of cold, dry and airy elements surrounding us in nature, and since we, too, are a part of nature we tend to get cold, dry and airy too. When vata gets out of balance it makes us feel spacey, anxious, restless, and fearful. This can lead to racing thoughts, anxiety and overwhelm. One of the best ways to calm vata is to be consistent and stick to a schedule. Take time for yourself in the morning to make a cup of tea or warm lemon water. See if you can savor a few moments of stillness instead of rushing out the door. Light a candle or create an atmosphere of warmth and ease into your day, setting your energy for what’s to come.
2. Eat warm foods
It takes more energy for us to digest raw and cold foods, which draws your vital energy away from your immune system functions. Warm foods are also nourishing and comforting, which calms the mind and comforts the body. So next time you get ready to enjoy a meal, skip the salad bar and grab a warm vegetable soup or opt for some cooked greens with a whole grain like rice or barley.
3. Don’t let your gut get into a rut
Did you know that when you’re eating and what your eating and even how you are chewing can be more effective at warding off a cold or flu than store bought medicines? According the the ancient science of ayurveda, your digestion is the root of your health and vitality and will boost your immunity just as much as a vitamin will. The key is to give your digestive fire (called agni) a chance to build and digest efficiently. This means leaving plenty of space between meals to fully digest your food, drinking water between meals (rather than during meals as to not dilute your precious digestive juices), eating whole, unprocessed foods and not eating too much at one sitting.
4. Avoid the white bandits
Yep. Sugar and flour strike again These two tend to wreck havoc on our systems no matter what the season, but winter is a really good time to keep these two to a minimum. In one study, researchers found that 100 grams of sugar suppressed the activity of white blood cells by 50% for about 6 hours. So if you throw back a soda and your child or coworker sneezes next to you, it may make the difference of getting sick or not. White flour is rapidly converted to sugars in the body and has a similar effect.
5. Relax…no really, relax.
Stress has a huge impact on your immune function. If you can’t remove the cause of your stress, then work to reduce it’s effects by doing things that you love and that make you feel relaxed are energized. Some of my favorites are yoga, meditation, exercise and deep breathing.
6. Move your body
Living in Vermont I am the first person to tell you that this isn’t always easy during the winter. Try these three simple ways to get more movement in your life:
1. Take a lunch break – use this time to get out and take a brisk walk.
2. Exercise in the morning so you don’t lose your motivation when its dark and the couch looks damn comfy.
3. Get outside. As I like to say, winter is just summer with more clothes on! Learn to layer for warmth and then go on a walk with a friend, take a bike ride, or go sledding. The key is to schedule it, and to make sure it’s fun so you’ll actually do it.
7. Get plenty of rest
I used to think that going to bed early meant I was missing out on all the fun, but over time I’ve begun to enjoy the luxury of reading under a pile of covers or just laying down and reflecting on my day. If you get an urge to hit the hay early, listen. Our bodies naturally crave what puts us into alignment with nature. Winter is a time of rest, reflection, and quiet. Allow yourself to indulge in the sweetness of surrendering to it.
8. Boost your immune system naturally (but with a little help)
Although I am fan of addressing issues at the source by using the above methods, I have found two natural remedies that I recommend since they have worked wonders for me. The first is Esberitox, which is made of two different types of Echinacea, baptisia and thuja (immune-enhancing herbs), and comes in chewable tablets. This is great for boosting your immune system if you feel something coming on but can’t quite pin-point what it is. The second is oscillococcinum (pronounced just like it’s spelled) just kidding – I honestly have no idea how to say this word, but just go to your local co-op or natural foods store and ask for the “homeopathic medicine with the long name that begins with ‘o’.” Seriously, it will work like a charm. Just like the website says, it prevents flu-like symptoms and I have found it to be very effective.
Now it’s your turn
Which of the above tips and tricks resonated most with you? Can you commit to doing one thing this week that will boost your chances of staying healthy and vibrant this winter? Do you have your own winter wellness secret weapon? Let us know what tip you are going to try in the comments below.