Winter is gracefully making her Utah entrance, so get ready! Ice melt is purchased, snow tires are on, and jackets are out of storage- but what about preparing our selves for the winter ahead? Depression, illness, and weight gain are just three tough contenders for having a good winter. Here are five suggestions for making this winter the happiest and healthiest yet.
Short and freezing days tend to make us want to climb onto the couch not onto the treadmill. But staying physically active is necessary, especially for good winter health. Moderate, regular physical activity will also help stave off depression like Seasonal Affective Disorder and those unwanted added pounds from the holidays. Try outdoor sports new to you as the added challenge increases happiness. Or join a social outdoor activity group like a local snowshoe group. Invite friends over for an at home workout or go rock climbing at one of the Salt Lake City gyms. The more social the activity the less likely you will skip.
Since Vitamin D is a great weapon against SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a winter health diet should reflect this as well. Wild-caught fatty fish like Salmon are a great source of Vitamin D. Alternatives to eating fish are fish oil pills, walnuts, Chia or Flaxseeds. Keeping healthy also means eating the best foods possible. This can be managed with these basic tenants: avoid overly processed foods; buy packaged foods with five or less ingredients; reduce use of salt and fat, aside from “healthy” fats; don’t drink all your calories, whether alcohol or a smoothie; focus on organic vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains like quinoa, and lean proteins; limit cheese, alcohol, fatty meats, and fried foods.
Keep both body and skin hydrated during winter months for optimum health. Dehydration is already too common among Americans, but winter really increases our lack of water intake. Heaters and cold conditions dry out organs and skin, which limits the body’s ability to function. Increase filtered water intake, especially on days with increased elevation (like from home in Salt Lake City to skiing at Alta). Always wear sunscreen, even in the middle of winter, to protect the skin. Use extra moisturizing sunscreens with UVA and UVB protection. Also, give your skin more moisture with natural skin conditioners like coconut and rose hip oils. Coconut oil is a deep conditioner, and rose hip oil contains anti-oxidents to fight free radicals. Both oils can be used on winter abused hair as a pre-wash conditioning treatment, too.
SUNLIGHT AND SUNLAMPS
Because of limited sunlight exposure, as well as less outdoor activity time, possible Seasonal Affective Disorder can take hold. Sun exposure helps the body create Vitamin D as well as reduces depression. Sun exposure, even as little as 30 minutes, can help regulate ‘body clocks’ which helps to maintain healthy sleep patterns. Some also suggest that UV rays also help contend against autoimmune diseases. Try to make time each day for some exposure to sunlight, like a short walk on a work break. Also, use light therapy sun lamps. One should face the lamp while doing activities like reading or eating, but don’t look directly at the light. Exposure time ranges from 30-60 minutes, depending on the person.
Spending time with friends and family during the cold, dark winter months is a great way to stave off Seasonal Affected Disorder. Deepening those bonds already created will keep everyone content. However, making new connections is just as valuable. Especially around the holidays, charities and other organizations rely on volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to not only meet new people, but also feel like you are contributing to your community. Also consider joining social outings at work (or making one), or joining a new group on Meetup.com or similar site. Even better, find a physical activity group!