Winter can be a season that divides people.
On one hand you have optimists who love the snow, the snuggle factor, and the fact that hot coffee and comfort foods taste just that much better.
And then there are those who struggle with the lack of sunlight, the snow that fills the driveway, and the near impossible task of getting out of a warm bed each morning to face the cold.
So how can you maximize your enjoyment of the good things this winter while minimizing any negative side effects?
Here are some ways to combat those effects of cold and darkness:
Thanks to the modern times we live in, it is not hard to maintain your summer workout routine well into winter, especially if it involves going to a gym or fitness studio.
However, outdoor activities like running can be difficult in the cold and snow.
So instead of trying to find another way to do the same activity you always do, why not try something seasonal instead?
Some great activities that become available in winter include skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, and hiking up snow covered mountains and hills.
Skiing and snowboarding are great activities because they require the use of a lot of muscles you wouldn’t normally use in other activities.
Your inner thigh muscles (adductors) often have to do a lot of work to keep you stable while skiing and snowboarding and many people find themselves walking like a cowboy after just 1 day on the slopes.
Ice skating again requires the use of some of your inner thigh and also your outer hip muscles to keep you stable. The intensity of ice skating can range from a casual scenic cruise around the rink to an all out sprint that leaves you puffing and panting like you were running on a track.
And if you’re an avid hiker and enjoy a scenic spring or sweaty summer hike, there’s a good chance you’re also going to love the additional challenges that the winter snow brings.
Cold exposure offers many benefits to the human body. It can awaken certain defensive mechanisms that strengthen the body, improve your immune system and improve your energy levels.
Did you know that in Finland they often send young children out into the snow to play in nothing more than some light clothing or swim trunks? This goes the same for Russians. And this isn’t something done by extreme parents on the weekend either, this is part of going to school.
While we are not advocating to send yourself or children out wearing their swimsuits in the snow, this shows that in many cultures, the cold is not something to be avoided but rather embraced, as it helps to create stronger and happier humans.
Sunlight is an important ingredient for human health. Apart from the attractiveness of a tan, direct sunlight on the skin, face, and eyes helps to trigger important metabolic processes which keep your body clock on schedule, improve your energy levels and make it easier for you to fall asleep at night.
But it’s not easy to get regular sun exposure during winter. Most people leave for work before the sun comes up and come home again once the sun has already set.
So how can you compensate for this?
One benefit of sun exposure is that it triggers a chemical reaction in the body that produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for many areas of health including immune health, energy levels, hormonal health, and skin health.
Sun exposure is the #1 way to produce quality Vitamin D and that fact is unlikely to ever change, however there are some food sources that can help you top your levels up.
The top 5 food sources of Vitamin D are all fatty fish but if you prefer to stick to plant-based sources of Vitamin D, you can get it through mushrooms, Shiitake being the best source. Vitamin D can also be found in full fat dairy milk and whole eggs (the Vitamin D is contained within the yolk).
If you would like to maximize your chances of absorbing the Vitamin D found in these foods, it is important to also consume it with Vitamin K. Vitamin K can be found in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, spring onions, cabbages and broccoli.
Vitamin D can also be consumed as a nutritional supplement during the winter months, but should be one that combines Vitamin D3 (The most absorbable form of Vitamin D - be sure to avoid D2) and some Vitamin K (K2 is preferred).
Now Vitamin D is one thing, but for the energy and sleep benefits that come from direct sun exposure, a good alternative is a blue light lamp, such as the Philips Energy Light, used by many top performers.
By shining this lamp on your face each morning for 15 minutes you can get most of the benefits of direct sun exposure but without the potential UV damage. Try shining it on your face while eating breakfast or doing some reading and the time will fly by. Most people are then able to start their day feeling energized and in a great mood.
Start by implementing one of the above strategies this winter and I’m confident you will be able to not only tolerate this divisive season but perhaps even learn to love it.
And, if you implement all 3 of them, you could likely become one of those winter optimists and absolutely thrive.