7 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Winter

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We’re still some weeks out before longer days are here — when hibernation mode comes to an end and you’re much more motivated to go outside — but that doesn’t mean you have to throw your health out the window in the meantime.

Perhaps you might have noticed a bit of weight gain post-holidays or have been fighting back a perpetual cold or flu? Whatever the reason, here are 7 ways you can stay healthy during the winter from a herbalist’s perspective.  

What Can Nature Teach Us About Winter?

Before we dive into the top ways to stay healthy, let’s first consider why this can feel so difficult to achieve in the winter. The key is to understand the rhythms of nature and in this case, the winter season.

Every traditional medicine around the globe (Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese, Aboriginal, etc.) is based on the cycles of nature. Once you understand how each season fits into the overall cycle of your body, you can capitalize on what you need so that you remain strong and healthy.  

Winter is the time of year when nature, including our bodies, goes into a building period. A time of rest, reflection, relaxation, and nourishment. This period is crucial in the natural cycle as we are preparing for the spring season to arrive where energy will be expended — often viewed as a rebirth period in Traditional Medicines. However, rebirth cannot occur without the building blocks of physical, mental, and emotional strength. It is critical to remind ourselves to move more slowly.   

In our modern society, we don’t always get the time to pause and adjust to the needs of our bodies. It is so important to be gentle. You may want to reconsider all the social activities you have planned or your physical exercise routines. Your body just doesn’t have the same energy for all of these activities right now. But complete isolation and zero exercise is not appropriate either. The goal is to have created enough space in your life to rest in a meaningful way while continuing to engage in life actively.

Cut yourself a break if you need that little extra nap or can’t run the speed you did in the spring and summer months. Focus on embracing this building period and enhancing your overall well being by trying some of these winter health tips.

Herbalist Winter Health Tips

1. Get Outside & Into the Light

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition people experience during the wintertime. It’s caused by a lack of vitamin D or exposure to the sun. According to the Canadian Mental Health Authority, 2-3% of people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although, it’s likely that more people experience mild symptoms occasionally — often thought of as being “in a funk” or having the “winter blues.”

Here are a few ways to combat vitamin D deficiency:  

  • Go for a walk during the daylight for 20 minutes (or more)

  • Buy a special light therapy lamp

  • Take a daily vitamin D supplement

Quick tip: To get the most out of your vitamin D supplement, wait 20 minutes between drinking coffee and taking the supplement.  

2. Aerobic Exercise

We know this one is universally known, but it’s a must-have inclusion on this winter health list. Aerobic exercise cannot be understated. It releases endorphins which is helpful for emotional health and keeps your physical body in shape. Even though it can feel like a chore, it’s absolutely crucial for your overall wellbeing.

The key during the winter months is to remember that you might just need to dial back your intensity. Motivation can be hard to find at times, so consider pairing up with a pal to keep each other accountable. Remember, gyms are not the only place for aerobic exercise: dancing, spin, and brisk walks can also get your blood pumping.

3. Stretch it Out with Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is more than just stretching. It helps calm your mind and release muscle tension. This is such a great practice to do year round, but especially in the winter when our bodies need extra restoration.

Again, try finding a friend to join you at your favourite yoga studio if you are feeling intimidated to try something new. The other option is to practice at home. There are lots of great DVDs, YouTube channels, and apps available to give you that extra push if you want to stretch it out in your living room.

4. Flower Essences

One of the ways to counteract the potential for disharmony is flower essence. Flower essences are used as vibrational healing tools that work on the emotional level of your system. Regardless of the feeling your experiencing, when emotion becomes all consuming your physical body responds. Often a flower essence is a powerful yet gentle herbal remedy that can be used by nearly anyone including children and the elderly with fast-acting results.  

While we do recommend working with a herbalist to customize a blend that is right for you, there are over-the-counter options. Of these, the Bach flower essence products are available in most natural grocery stores. Sometimes there are charts near the shelf to help you pick the best remedy.  

5. Break into Song & Shake (Dance)

During the summer, we’re far more likely to be outdoors and engaging in soul-nourishing activities. But during the winter, our energy is more static and our bodies are sedentary. If you’re a keen go-getter, signing up for a dance or music class could give you a nice lift. A simpler version can be done in the privacy of your home — just shake. That’s correct, move your hips, legs, and arms. Not only does it bring some motion to your body, but the joy it creates warms you from the inside out.

Do your best to push past any self-conscious feelings you have — it doesn’t matter what you look like. Eventually, the shaking turns into dancing so just put on your favourite tunes, and shake (dance) like no one is watching!

6. Prepare Food with Winter Herbs

In all Traditional Medicines, the importance of eating with the seasons is highlighted. Warming soups with bone broths and roasted root veggies are perfect for this season, as well as winter herbs. You might be surprised to find you have lots of winter warming herbs in your pantry. These herbs have great healing benefits and you should aim to add these into your dishes as much as you can:

Cinnamon

Key Properties:

  • Cleanses Blood

  • Digestive Aid

  • Reduces Sugar Cravings

  • Antiseptic

Paprika

Key Properties:

  • Antioxidant

  • Increases Circulation

  • May Lower Blood Pressure

  • Good for Hair & Nail Growth & Colour

Cayenne

Key Properties:

  • Increases Circulation

  • Stops or Slows Bleeding of Minor Cuts

  • Pain Relief

  • May Increase Metabolism

7. Reach Out For Support

We do encourage that you try to receive most of your nutritional support from food, but some herbs and vitamins are easier to consume in higher quantities through supplements. Like all aspects of life, sometimes we need support. Investing in yourself is the first step in realizing that your overall wellbeing is the foundation of every aspect of your life.  

If you’d like a more individualized review of the best herbal supplements and vitamins for you, I strongly recommend getting in touch with a clinical herbalist. Meeting with a clinical herbalist will save you time and money in the long run. Almandine Wellness offers a free 15-minute discovery consultation if you’d like to better understand if herbal treatments are right for you.

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The shortened winter days and lack of sun exposure have an impact on our health. While this time of year gives us an excellent opportunity for deep reflection, we can easily fall a little outside of ourselves. By integrating these tips into your winter health regimen, you’ll strengthen your immune system, remain emotionally-balanced, and stay physically fit.

Kristy Garnet