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9 Ways to Stay Afloat During the Winter

9 Ways to Stay Afloat During the Winter

It’s not even February and I already feel a bit bogged down with the cold and rainy weather. When I was a little girl, I remember getting hot easily, even sleeping on top of my covers most of the time, but as I’ve aged, I’ve become very cold-natured. From November to March, I constantly feel chilled. Simultaneously, I enjoy these months because of the holidays, my boys’ birthdays, snow, hot tea, cozy fireplaces, and ski trips. Through the years, I’ve learned a few ways to combat the dreariness and frigid weather. If you’re like me and are looking for ways to warm up, physically and emotionally, keep reading. 

Plan a spring or summer trip to look forward to: This one works, believe me. We rarely travel January through March because we have three kids taking high school courses and they can’t miss school. They are also athletes who don’t want to miss games, so we often stay put during the colder months for these reasons. With that being said, our school system’s spring break is always in April, so I have fun planning our spring break trip and looking forward to it. Visualization is a very powerful tool and visualizing a warm-weather trip works well to boost the mood. 

Go on a vacation: Due to the reasons stated above, this option doesn’t work for our family, but if you don’t have kids, your kids are very young or are already out of the house, this would be a great way to boost one’s mood during the winter months. One of my friends routinely travels to a tropical location during January. This not only gives her something to look forward to, but she returns sunkissed, full of vitamin D, and feeling refreshed. Further, vacations during January and February are often less expensive than those in the spring and summer months. 

Ramp up the exercise: The irony is that most people exercise more in the warmer months because they enjoy activities like biking, running, tennis, hiking, or swimming, but it’s the colder months when our bodies need exercise the most. Research tells us our moods are lower in the winter and exercise is a proven mood booster. You’d think our common sense would send us to the gym, but it’s hard to get moving when we’re cozied up inside. I have to sometimes make myself exercise in the winter and it’s certainly not as enjoyable as outdoor activities, but I alway feel a million times better when I do it. 

Eat warming foods: Obviously eating foods that are literally warm, such as soups, hot beverages, and casseroles, bring contentment to our frigid bodies. Along with that, there are “warming” and “cooling” foods based on how they affect us physiologically. Warming foods bring heat to our bodies but aren’t necessarily hot foods. I’ve actually been learning a lot about this over the past year while diving into the topic of ayurveda and can attest that eating warming foods is very comforting, especially during the winter. Examples of these food include pumpkin, squash, cherries, pinenuts, garlic, pistachios, ginger, rosemary, and vinegar. There are many others which you can find with a simple Google search. Intentionally eating in synchrony with specific seasons is wonderful for the human body and psyche. 

Soak in the vitamin D: Vitamin D actively fights depression by increasing serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes mood and increases happiness. Dopamine, sometimes coined as the “motivation molecule” also increases with this important vitamin. Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D, so even if it’s a chilly day, try and get outside if the sun is shining. More exposure to sun also helps regulate our circadian rhythms and therefore induces sound sleep. If getting natural sunshine is challenging or impossible, you can take vitamin D supplements, but here’s the great news – you only need 10-30 minutes of natural sunlight a day to maintain adequate levels in the blood. I try my best to get outside every day, especially on sunny days, but I also take a supplement just to make sure I’m getting enough of this feel-good vitamin. 

Get a massage: I’m a huge proponent of massages, so I recommend them during all times of the year, but if you only get a massage sparingly, be sure to make winter months a priority. I used to think massages were a luxury, something I would get once a year for deep relaxation, but the more I learn about this ancient healing method, the more I realize how beneficial massage is for both physical and mental well-being. When we become deeply relaxed, such as what happens during a massage, our heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and salivary cortisol levels decrease. All of these physical changes are great for combatting anxiety and depression. The cool thing is that even a short 10-15 minute chair massage offers these benefits. Massage is similar to meditation in that it quiets your mind completely, allowing racing throughs to sort themselves out and be known. This, too, is great for our mental wellness. 

Schedule social events/don’t isolate: In the colder months we tend to isolate ourselves more than when it’s nice and sunny outside. We want to stay huddled up in our warm, cozy homes but this isn’t good for our mental health. We’re social beings so staying connected, laughing, talking, and catching up with friends and family is imperative. It doesn’t have to be an every night event, but during the wintertime, make sure you’re intentionally scheduling outings with your colleagues, pals, and loved ones. Oftentimes, the thought is more exhausting than the act. Once we get out there and do something fun, we usually feel much better afterwards. Socializing is especially beneficial if the activity is something like a winter hike or a yoga class with coffee or hot tea afterward. 

See a therapist: No one should be ashamed of seeking the assistance of a therapist. I feel like therapy of all types is becoming more and more mainstream these days and I am grateful for that. If  you’ve tried all other methods and your mood stays significantly dark during the winter months, reach out to a therapist. You don’t even have to go see them in person. Since the pandemic, virtual therapy has become as common as face-to-face counseling. The important thing is that you seek help if your mood is significantly low and you’re feeling helpless or hopeless. 

Seek the fun: Lastly, even if you don’t enjoy the cold temperatures, the winter months offer a lot of fun activities. Winter hikes can be absolutely stunning. Not only are they less crowded, but the trees are bare which offers more long-range views. Further, trails with lingering snow are beautiful. Snowboarding, tubing, ice skating, skiing, and other winter sports are also options. If you don’t want to take on the more challenging feats of snowboarding and skiing, you can go tubing or ice skating which will make you feel like a kid again. The winter is also a great time for game nights, trivia nights at local hotspots or movie nights. All of these indoor activities give you social connection and intellectual stimulation, two boosts to our mental health. 

Winter will be over before we know it and soon enough we’ll be complaining about the muggy dog days of summer. For now, let’s embrace the cold months for what they are and make the most of them. 

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