8 Tips to Staying Healthy This Winter Season
This article was originally published last year, but have updated it -- I felt inspired after attending a dear friend's workshop. Lauren Kaneko-Jones of Well In The West is an acupuncturist and offers courses on seasonality, wellness, and helps women get in tune with seasonal shifts.
As it happens, today is Winter Solstice, so we're technically in the middle of winter! These tips below come as we pivot towards the summer light from the darkest day of the year.
Ok. It may go without saying, but as we move through the seasons each year, we notice differences in ourselves and the environments around us.
When I was studying macrobiotics on the east coast, I learned a lot about seasonal shifts and how it tugs at our internal/external balance; the ebb and flow, if you will. In macrobiotics, winter is represented by water, which I feel is very fitting. Water represents a calmness, darkness, of contemplation, and somehow a stillness (or perhaps mysteriousness) with a sense of purpose. So, when I think about winter - it's all about calming down, deep contemplation (new years resolution, anyone?), an inward energy that is ushering us inside (be it physical or mental) and encouraging all things cozy. We crave saltier, longer cooked meals that are rich and grounding. We consume warmer drinks and the idea of curling up to a good book next to a fire never sounded better.
The tips below are to encourage one to embrace winter's mood wholeheartedly, to listen to inner desires to contemplate, stay nourished, and stay grounded.
If there's ever a time to embrace our gut inclinations, it's definitely the winter. I encourage you to listen to how you feel and what your body needs to stay nourished.
- keep it mellow -
- hit the snooze -
- stay warm & cozy! -
-it's a great time to go inward & reflect -
- warm the body with spices, soups, and cooked foods -
- ask yourself what worked for you this year and what you hope to achieve next year -
8 TIPS ON STAYING HEALTHY THIS WINTER!
1. Get your rest
As the days get shorter and nights get longer, we are naturally encouraged to follow suit. This is because the sun has an immense impact on our circadian rhythm (body clock). Don't resist! Allow yourself to sleep a little longer, even if it's 15 minutes more.
Beyond the bed, allow yourself to rest more than usual. Take baths, read books, go on walks... do things that are calming for you. The winter is a perfect time to restore and rejuvenate.
[Hint: this may mean lightening up your schedule compared to other seasons]
2. Drink ample amount of water
The winter can have a drying affect on the body and skin, so drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated! Drink warm herbal teas and flavored water to keep things interesting.
If you're unsure how much water you should be drinking, half your weight and switch to ounces, so if you're 120 lb, you'll want to drink about 60 oz of water (but, everyone is different, so see what amount you need). Remember, soups and other liquids count towards this daily intake BUT caffeine doesn't count since it dehydrates the body!
[Hint: keep a thermos on you during the day. Filling it with tea, water, or any other infusion you enjoy]
3. Opt for food and drinks that warm the body
Be it longer cooking methods or the heavy use of spices, winter time is all about warming up the body. Raw foods that are eaten in the summer are replaced by soups, stews, and long cooked vegetables.
If you're opting for a salad, try having a salad with cooked vegetables, like roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and beets!
Some simple warming dishes:
- Roasted vegetables sprinkled with sea salt and cinnamon
- Wintery vegetable stew
- Coconut Red Lentil Soup
- Slow cooked meats (roasts, osso bucco, this slow cooked lamb shank recipe)
- Superfood chai hot chocolate
- Delicious and simple creamy chai tea at home
4. Stay healthy with immune boosting foods
BONE BROTH - rich in highly digestible minerals and fats, bone broth is perfect for maintaining a healthy immune system. Beyond that, it's key in keeping our gut happy! 80% of our immune system resides in the gut! (Dr. Mercola). So during a season like winter, it's important to keep our gut happy and healthy so it can protects us against any potential colds or flus. If you're in the San Francisco bay area, Broth Baby is a fabulous option!
ELDERBERRY - has been used for centuries to help heal the body from colds and chest congestion, to improving vision and heart health. What an amazing plant! It's a rich antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral - giving the body a boost, especially the immune system.
I was first introduced by this plant by Bonnie Rose from 1849 Medicine Garden and Lauren Kaneko-Jones : Simmer 1 cup of elderberries with 3 cups water for about 45 minutes or when the liquid reduces to half, strain into glass container and mix in 1 cup of honey. Keep the fridge and drink 1 tbsp a day in beverage of choice, or drink multiple times a day if sick.
GINGER & TURMERIC - both are highly antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and have disinfecting properties. Ginger in particular helps to breakdown toxins in the organ and clean the lymphatic system. These plants help support optimal gut health, supporting the immune system that way as well.
VITAMIN C rich foods - Vitamin C is key boosting our immune system, it's an antioxidant, and actually helps to re-charge other antioxidants in the body like vitamin E. More than that, vitamin C is key in helping to replenish collagen, especially the skin, hair, and nails, which tend to dry out over the winter. Seasonal produce that's high in vitamin C are kiwis, all citrus, dark leafy greens (especially when eaten fresh), brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, ginger and turmeric.
WINTER GREENS - Not only packed with vitamin C, winter greens are loaded with other minerals and vitamins that keep the body happy and nourished. Just to highlight one of the many nutrients, these greens are high in magnesium which is important for bone health, heart health, promotes optimal sleeping patterns, and is key in relaxation (both mental and muscular).
ADAPTOGENS! - these are a unique group of herbs that increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress, restore physiological functioning, and support homeostasis. They specifically support the adrenals and immune system. Some fantastic adaptogens for the winter are ashwagandha, holy basil, and astragulus. You can take these herbs in the form of a tincture, tea, or powder.
5. Try this simple cold busting tea:
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder, or fresh
dash of black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 - 1 tbsp raw local honey
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp elderberry syrup
Directions: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Meanwhile add the first 5 ingredients to a large tea pot or split between two mugs. Pour freshly boiled water. Mix. Let sit for a few minutes before adding the last 3 ingredients. Drink immediately, stirring occasionally to mix up all that goodness.
6. Plan your meals and keep healthy snacks with you!
Winter is a season of all things rich & decadent. So! It's important to keep yourself well fed (with the healthy foods) so you don't get tempted by the cookie plate at your next work affair. Help yourself to stay on tract by making sure you don't go too long without a meal or snack.
7. Keep the body moving!
Although winter time is a time of inward reflection, retreating to one's home for days of hibernation, may make some feel isolated and mildly depressed - a feeling of stagnation. It's important to keep exercising for so many reasons, but mood is a big one. Exercising just 20 minutes a day can boost mood and reduce stress. Exercise also supports optimal immune function, hormone balance, and heart health. One caveat is though exercise is encouraged, winter is about being more mellow, so it's a perfect time to try out less extreme forms, like restorative or yin yoga, long walks, and other low impact activities.
8. Spend time in nature & reflect
So many benefits to this one, no matter the time of year. You soak up vitamin D (vital for optimal health), connect with mother earth, have space to reflect and be quiet, and it's an effective way to restore and rejuvenate the mind and body. Check out this article on Business Insider to learn more. The bottom line is that nature is vital to our internal/ external balance and overall health.
There is no greater question in our human life than "what is my purpose?" Make sure to spend time this winter reflecting, bringing clarity to your own purpose, and gaining the inspiration to take action when the new year comes. I personally love to journal, but we each have our own ways to contemplate and reflect.
What really worked this year? What are some things you'd like to work on next year? What would you like to bring to life next year?