Today is January 23. We are officially in the dead of winter. January can be a time when you feel unmotivated, constantly hungry + lacking energy. Maybe your New Year's resolutions are just a distant memory, or you've been down with the dreaded flu. Winter can be such a challenging time for our health + wellbeing. It's hard not to dream of a tropical beach in some faraway place, imaging yourself toned, bronzed + beautiful, reclining with a cocktail in hand! Today I thought I would share some motivating tips for keeping your mental + physical health in check during these long, dark cold months. I have a 2 year old in daycare who seems to expose our household to every bacteria + virus under the sun, yet by following these steps I somehow manage to stay cold + flu free during the winter. I'm definitely not a fitness fanatic, nor do I follow any gluten free/dairy free/no alcohol regime. I am a firm believer in a moderate approach to everything in life. If you can take some steps to staying healthy, preventing sickness + keeping motivated, then there is a lot less work to be done once spring arrives.
1. Stick to a regular exercise routine: I know, most of you are probably rolling your eyes as this seems like the most simple task, and most difficult thing to achieve during winter. It is so hard getting out of bed at 6am to make a yoga class, especially when it's dark & cold outside. But waking early to exercise is one of the best ways to get your mind & body going. It stimulates endorphins & puts you in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. If you sit at a desk all day, it is particularly important that you in a positive frame of mind as you will eat better & you will be motivated in your job. Also, don't be too hard on yourself. If you miss a class or planned workout, don't throw your whole regime out the window. If motivation is a challenge for you, instead of meeting a friend for a post work drink, plan to meet at the gym or yoga studio & work out together. Treat yourselves to a meal together afterwards!
There are also immunity boosting benefits of exercise as well. University of South Carolina researchers discovered that men who got in 3 hours a day of moderate activity (the equivalent of walking briskly, climbing stairs, or playing tennis) were 35% less likely to catch a cold compared with those who did only 1 hour.
Even if you don't have time in your day for exercise, make sure you incorporate as much movement into your day as possible. If you have a desk job, get up every 20 minutes and take a short walk, visit the water cooler or take a bathroom break. Sitting without moving for long periods is bad for your body + your concentration.
2. Hot lemon + honey: I kick off everyday with half a lemon squeezed into a big cup of hot water, and a tablespoon of local, raw honey. Despite lemons being acidic, this delicious, refreshing concoction actually balances PH levels in your stomach. If you get that acidic feeling in your stomach in the morning, like many people do, this is a great way to combat that uncomfortable feeling. I look forward to my "hot lemon" every morning, and my 2 year old loves it too!
3. Massage: Many of us feel like massage is a luxury that we do not deserve. The reality is that regular massage has numerous health benefits, including immunity boosting. Prevention.com highlights the wellness benefits of massage:
"Massage therapy has been shown to improve immune function and energy levels in cancer patients. In a 500-person review study, massage lowered cortisol levels by up to 53%. Experts believe this boost can extend even to those who are simply dealing with the daily pressures of life. A weekly kneading, whether it's a professional massage or simply a back rub from your significant other, can also increase serotonin and dopamine, mood boosters that may help protect your immunity, as well".
4. Wash your hands….a lot! This is something I only really started doing once my little girl started daycare. Prevention.com highlights the crucial importance of hand washing in keeping germs out of your home:
"Researchers from the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego saw a decrease in respiratory illness of 45% from the previous year among 45,000 recruits who had been instructed to wash their hands at least five times a day (soap dispensers were installed and the students were lectured monthly on the importance of hand washing).
Similar results would be likely in schools, homes, and workplaces where regular hand washing is adopted, says William Schaffner, MD, chair of the preventive medicine department at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "I'm not talking about just before dinner," he adds. "We have a rule in my house: Anytime you walk in the door, you hang your coat and march to the sink to wash your hands." Such frequency may not be necessary for all families, but experts agree that simple soap-and-water hand washing is an easy and effective way to stay healthy year-round".
5. Go Toward the Light Parents.com emphasize the importance of getting some direct sunlight each day during the winter months:
"Six out of every 100 Americans may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a malady of mood swings that occurs when light diminishes in winter, according to the Academy of Family Physicians. To counter SAD, Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., CPC, a psychotherapist practicing in Chicago, recommends vitamin D, exercise, and light therapy. Some lamps and box lights are designed to treat the disorder. Ask your doctor to recommend one if she thinks you have SAD. To keep your kids upbeat, help them get off the couch and outside whenever there is a sunny day. About 10 to 15 minutes of play in the sun is a good mood-lifter (and source of D)".
6. Keep healthy snacks in your purse. I live in Telluride, Colorado at 8750ft. As winter approaches, I definitely feel a shift in my appetite. I'm not sure whether it's the altitude, the cold weather or the skiing that does it but I definitely feel like eating more during the winter months. Having healthy snacks on hand helps me keep my food choices smart. I make sure I eat a healthy breakfast everyday, and keep food in my purse like a Larabar or a Kind Bar. Bananas, nuts + granola are also easy, healthy choices.
7. Take a daily multi vitamin. Taking a daily multi vitamin ensures your body gets a nutritional boost during the winter months when you are more prone to sickness. Taking supplements of zinc + echinacea also helps ward off those cold + flu symptoms.
8. Reduce stress through meditation. The benefits of meditation are so innumerable, it is hard to list them briefly in one paragraph. You don't need to start with hours a day. Just start with 5 minutes to begin with + you will quickly be making more time for it as soon as you feel the benefits. Meditation is proven to reduce stress, improve immunity, provide mental focus + clarity, increase creativity + boost serotonin.
9. Maintain a regular sleeping cycle - waking up + going to bed at the same time everyday is a huge help to your physical + mental resilience. Getting enough sleep is also important in ensuring your immune system has the bed chance of fighting infection.
10. Start planning your summer vacation: nothing is quite as motivating during the winter months as envisioning yourself in a bikini in a few months time. The ultimate motivation for the winter blues is booking a summer vacation in advance. This was you make a commitment to reward yourself for all of your efforts, assuming that you will be making efforts over the next few months!! RE:treat will be hosting adventure yoga retreats in the USA + Europe in 2015. Our all inclusive yoga vacations take place in some of the most inspiring mountain locations around the world and are most often luxurious.
What are some tricks + tips you stick to to avoid losing motivation + staying healthy during the winter months?
To view our yoga retreat schedule for 2015 click here. Or call the RE:treat team on 970-729-8108. RE:treat curates yoga inspired adventure retreats in Colorado + Europe. Our all inclusive retreats combine yoga with hiking, biking + skiing. SAVE 10% on all 2015 yoga retreats if you book by January 31, 2015. Book your yoga vacation with RE:treat today!