Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 12/29/20
Winter for many in the Northern half of the US bring chilly days, long dark nights, frosty mornings, low energy levels, lack of physical activity, disconnection from the natural world, increased chance of illness, and slight to moderate depression. Winter can also be the season of deep introspection, building your own heat, adding light to a dark world, enjoying delicious healthy comfort foods, enjoying the nest you created for yourself, diving into long projects, organizing your mind and home, strengthening your connection to the Earth and the Universe, and taking fabulous care of your body. I vote for winter being a terrific season of self care and self awareness that prepares me for energetic bursts of new life in the Spring. A garden analogy is that seeds planted in the fall and allowed to rest and prepare during winter will grow earlier and stronger in the springtime then those who waited till after winter’s end.
Physical Self Care During Winter
Our physical bodies are cued to the sun and seasons more than we modern humans want to admit. Winter heightens our feelings about having “stuff to do” and “no time to get it all done”. Our bodies need warmth, nutrition, and rest more so now than any other season.
Tips for Daily Physical Wellness
- Get warm or hot – take a hot bath or shower, take a fast walk outside, avail yourself of a session in the Infrared Sauna, jump on a trampoline or rebounder for 5 minutes, or drink plenty of warm, nutrient rich beverages
- Move your body – the cold can make joints achy and muscles cranky – a gentle yoga practice or fascial release class anytime feels good while a more challenging whole body movement session using Pilates Apparatus offsets our natural desire (or work-based need!) to be sedentary
- Eat nutrient dense warming foods – feed your body and your immune system at the same time to keep your body healthy all winter; pass on the sugary, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods and drinks in favor of things like baked sweet potatoes loaded with aromatic greens and tasty proteins, or homemade soup made with bone broth and vegetables galore served with sourdough bread
Emotional Self Care During Winter
Emotions are an important part of being human but when they are out of balance, we suffer. Emotions can easily drift towards the negative and depressed end of the spectrum more than we want between fall and spring. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) from low sunshine levels and the cold temperatures of winter create a change to our hormones and brain chemistry (low seratonin levels) shifting us out of balance and towards depression. Our emotional resilience is supported by each of us building a personalized emotional first aid kit. What’s in your winter emotional first aid kit?
Tips for Daily Emotional Wellness
- Spend time with beauty – create your own at home, experience the natural beauty the Earth has to offer, or simply appreciate a photo like the one below taken by a client!
- Release the stress from the day by meditating or practicing yoga – emotional stress is held in the body so gentle movements (fascial movement and yoga) can release emotions (surprise cry!)
- Bring the sunlight back! – invest in your emotional health with Joovv Light Therapy sessions. Once a week might be enough or you might need more sunshine in the winter!
Social Self Care During Winter
As the chill sets in and the days are still more dark then light, our social interactions can bring light to our lives and joy to our days. Work related interactions, brief as they may be, can satisfy social needs for some of us. Others, particularly during the global COVID-19 pandemic, need MORE! Winter blues or seasonal blues can be exacerbated by feeling isolated and lonely when its also dark and cold.
Tips for Daily Social Wellness
- Talk to people that make you feel good – set aside even just 5 minutes daily to connect with a friend or loved one in a way that helps you feel balanced and positive
- Exercise or cook with one or more humans – Even virtually, you could be setting your body and mind up for success and being efficient with your time! Commit to the same movement class weekly and your classmates will soon become more than just pretty faces on the screen!
- Skip the social media game and choose to connect with someone on a deeper level through conversation, laughter, reminiscing, game playing, or some other shared experience (even if its virtual!)
Environmental Self Care During Winter
Your physical environment plays a big role in how you feel. The organization of a room, the chemicals present (or not!) in the air and on your clothes, the clutter, the scents both indoors and outdoors, and the presence of nature can all affect your ability to think and be happy. Outdoors, clean air, clean water, plentiful plants and trees, an array of wildlife …
Tips for Daily Environmental Wellness
- Choose to use only people- and earth-friendly laundry detergents, personal care products, household cleansers, and air fresheners – toss the toxic stuff out of your house
- Keep at least one corner or area of your home exactly the way you want it to be as often as you can – it will help clear out the clutter in your mind and encourage focus
- On the occasional warmer day during the winter months, throw open the windows and air out the room or your whole house. Yes, it will be chilly but you can take a walk while you are ventilating your indoor space and then heat everything back up (including you!) when you return!
Spiritual Self Care During Winter
Spirituality means many things to many people, but the underlying elements are a perfect match for the Winter Season. Winter is a time for going inward, contemplating who you are, preparing for the next year, and growing your roots to connect you more to the Earth, people, and the Universe.
Tips for Daily Spiritual Wellness
- Meditation is a part of religious and spiritual practices all around the world. Daily meditation offers an opportunity to feel connected to whatever divine power you honor, to spend even just a few seconds or minutes focussing on what is important to you in life, and to let the sand flow through your fingers in favor of the gemstones of life.
- Contentment with life is more likely if you know your reason for being and actively choose to live it as many days as possible. In some religions, your reason for being is called dharma or personal truth. Dharma is not your job, your position in your family, or what your friends think of you. It is who you truly are deep on the inside. Living your dharma means choosing the outward actions that support your deep inner beliefs about yourself, the person you think you should be, and your value to the universe. How can you live your dharma today?
- Connect to the Universe and all within it by spending time in nature daily. Watch the birds at your bird feeder. Hear the leaves crinkle under your shoes when you take a walk. Sit outside with a cup of warm cocoa or tea while the snowflakes or raindrops fall. Plant a bulb and encourage it to flower indoors. Wipe off the leaves of an indoor plant while thanking the plant for releasing oxygen into the air. There are so many choices!
Financial Self Care During Winter
In the weeks and months right after the end of year holidays, many find themselves minimizing spending in order to pay off their holiday generosity. Others are in jobs or businesses where winter signifies a slow down in income. If this describes you, financial wellness dictates a shift towards funding your priorities and skipping the optional or luxury-style purchases. Finances are often still a taboo subject among Americans and around the globe, but some simple financial tips can help you weather this winter without sacrificing your overall wellness or feeling a scarcity to your life.
Tips for Daily Financial Wellness
- Shift to increased self care at home to save money: for example choose to give yourself a weekly foot bath with epsom salts and follow it up with moisturizer and make sure to really enjoy your usual pedicure when it makes financial sense.
- Spend some time planning your food for the week (perhaps when you order your fresh local veges or your prepared juices, and kombucha) so you have less chance of yielding to the demands of ravenous bellies for a quick fast food fix or expensive food delivery.
- Indulge in a low cost, sensual experience instead of an expensive sensory experience: for example enjoy a cup of aromatic herbal tea, a piece of dark chocolate, and a newly created playlist (even better if you share yours with a friend and vice versa) or perhaps dim the lights and put on some dance music for yourself (and those near you – even virtual!) and boost your physical wellness at the same time!
Occupational Self Care
One of the outcomes of the 2020 pandemic is the vast number of people trying to do their jobs from home. Pros include reduced commute times, for some work hours became flexible, increased sleep hours, and more. Cons include suboptimal ergonomics in the home office that used to be the dining room table or spare bedroom, trying to help kids with learning and life while also trying to work, and feeling like you can not get away from work like you used to. Winter and cold temperatures outside can add to the already present stir-crazy feelings and the sense of needing more space and time than you have. With a bit of mindfulness, winter can be a blessing to your occupational wellness!
Tips for Daily Occupational Wellness
- Whether your hours are rigid or flexible, make time for a real lunch and healthy snacks to keep your brain fueled and your body feeling optimal. Your work efficiency will benefit and your personal time will be more enjoyable and productive as well.
- Get enough sleep. On purpose. Every night. An optimal circadian rhythm tells you when you should go to sleep and wake in rhythm with the sun. A great solution to most of your woes in life lies in excellent sleep. Not too much. Not too little. The same pattern each day (even on weekends!). Effective sleep with all 3 phases prepares you for a fabulous day when you wake.
- When you are working, try to just work. When you are off, enjoy being off! It can be hard to get into this habit but if you do not value your non-paid-work time why should anyone else?
Intellectual Self Care
The human brain and muscles share a quality: Use it or lose it. The brain’s neural connections are strengthened by thinking! The speed of your thinking can be increased by guess what – more thinking! Encourage your brain to stretch and reach to new places just like you ask your body to do. You can change the relative size and composition of the parts of your brain through nutrition and exercise. Grow your memory and mental acuity while also staving off mental diseases!
Tips for Daily Intellectual Wellness
- Take a movement class with Zoa! You heard me. The connection between the brain and our ability to move is crucial. Our brain needs to sense the body, process the steps need to move (like turn on your core!), instruct the muscles, then repeat. Movements classes with Zoa are excellent brain work – just ask any current or past student of mine!
- Learn something new. It should be easy. Actually instead perhaps try to learn nothing and see how hard it is. There is even a special Learn Nothing Day which some enjoy failing at! So since it is so easy to learn something every day – keep track of what you learned! Tell a friend. Post to social media. Make a big deal out of it! Your brain will feel young and thank you for thinking.
- Eat and exercise for brain health! Essential Omega-3 fatty acids and oxygen are linked to a healthier, larger hippocampus, which controls memory, can help to stave off Alzheimer’s Disease. So take a walk, breathe deep, enjoy olive oil on your salad, wild caught salmon, and other Omega-3 rich foods.