woman in winter
Health & Fitness

The Northerner’s Guide to Staying Healthy in Winter

The shortest day of the year is past us.  Hooray!  From here on, days will be getting longer, meaning spring isn’t . . . too far off.  However, winter is still in full force and with its force comes weakened immune systems, less access to the outdoors (for some), and for others, seasonal affective disorder.

Though I’m a native Tennessean, but for some reason has been my hardest yet.  I was sick – I mean home-from-work-don’t-even-have-the-energy-to-eat-bad-food-sick – for a full week, with a cough, cold, and other symptoms lasting weeks.  So this winter, I’ve decided to concoct a guide to surviving thriving in the winter.  You don’t have to be a beach babe to enjoy the months December – March!

Whether you feel the effects of winter on your body and spirit or not, these tips are sure to leave you feeling energized, uplifted, and inspired in this season of beauty.

Ways to Boost Health & Happiness in the Winter

Exercise

woman running outside in winter

When I say exercise, I mean exercise more than usual.  There’s something about winter to me that just signals my brain and body to need exercise…perhaps because I’m likelier to be more sedentary given how difficult it can be to move about outside with the piles of snow & ice.

Either way, taking intentional time to exercise (especially if you work a desk job where you’re not moving very much) will give you more energy, help you sleep better, and improve your mood.  This is in addition to the myriad other benefits that exercising gives us – including maintaining overall health.

Read also: Why Carry on Exercising Outdoors in Winter?

Nutrition

It’s always important to be attentive to what you’re consuming.  But with so many other things seemingly working against our bodies & immune systems in winter, it’s extra important to be mindful of our eating habits.

Take care to eat lots of leafy greens, healthy fats, grass-fed, organic meat when possible, and other goodies.

Reduce or eliminate your consumption of sugar, processed foods, alcohol, white flours, and so on.  You know this by now, so let’s move on . . .

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an amazing thing.  It was recently discovered that vitamin D may be one of the best and most important vitamins for our bodies.  This is likely because up to 2000 of our genes – or about 1/6 of the human genome – are regulated by vitamin D.

In addition to this, recent studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin D “may be the primary culprit in depression, heart disease, pregnancy problems, birth defects, skin and other cancers, and multiple sclerosis”.

It’s important to increase vitamin D levels because up to 77% of Americans are deficient in this vital vitamin – and this isn’t even just during the winter.  In the winter our access to vitamin D plummets as the sun hides behind clouds and short days.  It is very possible that you are deficient in vitamin D, especially if you have dark skin (which inhibits the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from the sun) or live up north.

Read also: Must have skin care product for winter

You can increase vitamin D a few ways:

  • Expose your skin to natural sunlight – even when it’s cold out, try to get outside on those rare sunny days!
  • Eat vitamin D rich foods: fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel (be mindful of how you consume seafood); mushrooms; eggs (the yolk!); and cod liver oil – to name a few.
  • Take a vitamin D3 supplement.  I highly recommend this one.

Regulate Serotonin with Light Therapy

woman taking happy light

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in appetite, sleep, memory, mood (contributes to feelings of wellbeing), heart health, aging, metabolism, and wound/injury healing.  Reduced sunlight during fall and winter can lead to reduced production of serotonin in the the brain.  In extreme cases, this can lead to seasonal effective disorder or depression.

Enter: light therapy.

Canadian researchers found that 30 minutes of light therapy daily for eight weeks worked just as well as Prozac to ease depression. Not only that, the light therapy started having an effect within the first week, whereas the antidepressant took at least two weeks to kick in.

So how do you get light therapy?

  • Exposure to natural sunlight is the best option
  • Of course, in harsh Minnesotan [insert other location here] winters, sunlight can be hard to come by!  In this case, I recommend using a “Happy Light” – this wonderful creation exposes you to the healthy light that regulates your serotonin levels and increases vitamin D.  So even on those days (sometimes weeks . . . or months) when you can’t really get outside, you can bring the sun inside by using the happy light.

How do you use a Happy Light?

It’s pretty simple: plug it in and sit in front of it for a few minutes or hours depending on the level of light it puts out.  Generally speaking, more expensive happy lights put out  more light and thus require less time spent in front of them.

I use a less expensive one (only $30ish!) because I spend most of my day sitting at a desk and have my happy light on for a few hours most mornings in the short days of winter.

Note: Just be careful not to use your happy light too late in the day.  As it is meant to mimic  sunlight, using the light too late in the afternoon when the sun wouldn’t naturally be very strong can throw your body out of whack. 

Earthing

Earthing Mat

This one is a little bit funky, y’all.  But I am completely fascinated by this concept.

Simply put, Earthing – or grounding – is allowing your bare skin to connect with the Earth.  Why, you ask?  Read on . . .

Earthing was discovered by Clint Ober, a man who worked in the cable industry for 25 years and understood the transfer of currents and conductivity.  He found that the skin is an excellent conductor and direct contact with the ground transfers free electrons from the Earth into our bodies.  These electrons are likely the most powerful antioxidant known to humans!  Simple ground contact neutralizes charge in the body and naturally protects the nervous system and the endogenous fields of the body from electrical interference.

This used to happen naturally – without thinking – when humans spent far more time outside (and more time barefoot) than we do today.  Further, with most of us being surrounded by computers, TVs, cell phones, and other electronics constantly, our bodies are inundated with free radicals that cause illness and damage.  These free radicals are neutralized by our contact with the Earth.

Benefits of Earthing

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Anti-aging
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces exposure to free radicals

What to do when you can’t walk barefoot (aka What to do in Winter)

So in the winter, the majority of us can’t access the ground with bare skin in a comfortable way.  This is exactly why the Earthing mat was developed.

I just got this earthing mat and will keep you posted on how I think it is working for me!  I can say that my mom, who has trouble falling asleep at night, started using this mat several months ago and says she falls asleep faster and wakes up less frequently when she uses it. She’s not one to “fall for” things easily, so I take her recommendation pretty seriously.  

Clint Ober – the same man who made this initial discovery of our bodies needing connection to the Earth – developed the Earthing mat.  He knew how cables worked, and knew that he could mimic the connection we get when touching our feet to a sandy beach, for example, by creating something that could transfer the energy of the ground into our bodies.

If you want to learn more about Earthing (trust me, you do!), the best thing I can do is recommend that you read this book, as it explains the wonders of earthing very well.  It’s a fascinating read!

AboutEliana Smith

I'm Eliana, student in Master Communication. I'm a bit of a cheeky, free, happy, curious, traveler, lover and undeniably beauty-addict. I love color, good humor, old science fiction and simple people.

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