What comes to mind when you think of winter? If we take our clues from nature, we realize that winter is the time of rest and rejuvenation for the mind, body and spirit. Trees shed their leaves, bears hibernate, squirrels collect their food to get them through the coldest days and we rest. But do we really? You may be surprised to find out that there is much to do in the winter. Yes, it is the season to retreat, but it is also the season where we plan and prepare for spring.
So, let’s take our clues from nature and let winter be our guide for a time of self-care.
One of the ways to take care of ourselves and stay healthy is to hydrate, hydrate and then hydrate some more. Winter is a time to continue drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. Don’t like cold water in the winter? Then why not kill two birds with one stone and switch to herbal teas? Ginger is a great choice as it helps to strengthen the immune system during flu and cold season. Adding ginger tea to your daily routine will ward off colds and even help lessen the severity of your cold symptoms. Adults can steep 2 tablespoons of freshly shredded or chopped ginger in hot water, two to three times a day. The effects are comforting and warming. Let’s not forget about getting in kitchen and making nutrient dense warming foods, like soup, chili and broth. Broth is especially hydrating to our cells.
Before we get off the topic of immune health, we need to address one more very important factor to fighting off cold/flu this season. Because we tend to cuddle by the fire and “hibernate,” our sun exposure is limited; therefore, supplementing with Vitamin D is critical. Vitamin D supports the immune system and can fight off the flu.
Vitamin D can also help your mood. From periods of irritability to Season Affective Disorder (or SAD) and other mood disorders, research links lack of sunshine to a drop in Vitamin D levels, which cause serotonin (the happy hormone) to drop in the brain, which can lead to depression.
If you do suffer from SAD you can also use light therapy.
Light therapy is most effective when you use it for approximately 30 minutes a day, preferably in the morning.
The winter can also be a time for reflection and intention setting that can lead you to make this season unexpectedly, the most beautiful season of the year. Journaling and intention setting sets the tone for the months ahead and gives us time to plan and reach goals for the upcoming new year.
Winter is the perfect time to nourish your body with good thoughts and remembering that sometimes less is more. For starters, let’s commit to take December through February and truly take the time to quiet our minds; focus on what is good and slow down just enough to take pleasure in our daily lives. This is the perfect time to start a daily meditation practice. Give your self 5-10 minutes each morning to close your eyes, connect with your breath and just be. People who meditate or practice other methods of deep relaxation are able to alleviate stress and combat seasonal blues related to the winter months. Meditation decreases levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine in the blood and helps balance your biochemistry. You can start by practicing a loving kindness meditation (one of my favorites).
To do this, just sit quietly and take your attention to your heart and mentally say to yourself, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I feel safe, may I feel loved.” As you say this phrase picture a loved one and send them the same mantra. I tell my meditation students to picture a golden glow at their heart as they repeat the mantra silently to themselves. This meditation works like a charm to bring you to a place of peace and tranquility.
Lastly, don’t let the winter make you into a complete couch potato. Bundle up and get outside for a brisk walk morning walk. Take in the sounds, sights and magic of this beautiful season. Build a snowman, make a snow angel and embrace your inner child. As we experiment with comforting, new foods and rituals, we will find that self-love is a practice that deserves attention all year round, but especially in the winter.
By Tracy Flaherty, CHHC
Tracy Flaherty is a board-certified integrative health and lifestyle coach. She
trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at the world-renowned Teachers College at Columbia University. Tracy is the founder of Be Well Nourished (www.bewellnourished.com). She is a meditation teacher and facilitates seasonal workshops and ongoing meditation groups. Her mission is to support, empower and inspire women on their personal wellness journey through a mind, body spirit approach to wellness and health. Tracy supports her clients at every step on their path to break old eating and thinking habits to enjoy happier and healthier lives. Tracy’s clients find their joy, pursue their passions and live their best healthiest lives. You can follow and contact Tracy on Instagram @bewellnourished or Facebook @bewellnourishedcoachingwithtracyflaherty for inspiration, recipes, health tips and meditations.
‘Self-Love’ Minestrone Soup
2 large carrots, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 cups of water
1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add chopped vegetables and garlic and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent.
- Stir in tomatoes, water, beans and spices. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Serve over small pasta – like orzo or ditalini – and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.