You've winterized your house, your car, and your sprinkler system. But have you winterized your self? Long, cold weeks of frigid weather and little sunshine can take their toll on body, mind, and soul. This year, shine through the coldest season, with these 11 ways to winterize.
Stay toasty from the inside out with warming herbs, spices, and foods. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), winter is associated with the kidneys, considered the primary source of the body's essential energy, called "qi." The kidneys and qi are easily depleted in the winter, and can be nourished with warming foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, seaweed, beans, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, eggs, and meat. And focus on stews, soups, braises, and roasts-cooking longer, at lower temperatures, draws heat deep into the food.
In the winter, forced-air heat and cold temperatures lead to dry air with low humidity. Add the fact that most people tend to drink fewer fluids in the winter, and you're likely to experience dry skin, frizzy locks, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. Dry air irritates mucous membranes, the body's natural barrier against infection. Plus, certain viruses survive longer in low humidity. Some studies suggest lack of humidity also contributes more to sinus congestion than any other variable. So keep your body hydrated. Run a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep; take regular steams at a local health club; or set bowls of water out around your house. And drink plenty of fluids-green tea with ginger hydrates while fueling your body with warming herbs and antioxidants.
Skin is depleted by cold weather, harsh wind, and dry forced-air heat. Protect and soothe your skin with nourishing creams and lotions. Look for products that contain plant oils, herbal extracts, and humectants, such as glycerin or honey, that pull moisture from the air into skin. For maximum moisturizing, apply lotion or cream within three minutes after bathing or showering to lock in moisture. Hands usually need a super-rich selection to prevent chapping and drying. And don't forget lips: wind, cold, and sun can lead to cracks and fissures.
Some winter-worthy selections to nourish all of you:
- Reviva Labs Hawaiian Seaweed Beauty Mask
- Earth Science Naturals Multi-Therapy Ceramide Healthy Skin Lotion
- Alaffia Neem & Shea Butter Skin Recovery Face Cream
- Home Health everclēn for Sensitive Skin Hand Cream
- Eco Lips Eco Lips ONE WORLD Restore Soothing Lip Balm in Coconut Ginger
Winter is a time of stillness, quiet, and drawing in. Take advantage of inner silence and peace with a daily meditation practice. Start by creating a cozy, comfortable space-it doesn't have to be elaborate or spacious, but it should be peaceful and calm. The idea is to set aside a space that's used exclusively for meditation, even if it's just the corner of your bedroom.
Decorate the area with a few objects that put you in a meditative space, such as candles, incense, flowers, cushions, blankets, or sacred statues. Just remember that too much clutter is distracting, so don't overdo it.
Ideally, you'll meditate every day, and consistency is more important than length of time. Your practice may be as simple as closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath, or as elaborate as mantra repetition and chanting.
Need ideas? Find a variety of ideas at winterfeastforthesoul.com.
Dry winter weather means more dead skin cells. As skin cells build up, they prevent lotions and creams from penetrating. For moisturizers to work their magic, you'll need to gently exfoliate that surface layer. Ditch dead skin cells with a mixture of almond oil and sugar; gently rub over body, and rinse in the shower. For your face, more TLC is required. Try a natural exfoliant that also contains moisturizing and soothing ingredients.
- Aubrey Men's Stock North Woods Face Scrub in Classic Pine
- Andalou Naturals Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub
- Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub
Cold, dry winter air means dull, frizzy locks. Hydrate hair with simple winter fixes. Start by minimizing washing-too many shampoo sessions can strip oils and leave hair dry and brittle.
Make a DIY dry shampoo for touchups: Using an old makeup brush, apply a little cornstarch or arrowroot (for light hair) onto oily roots; for dark hair, use cocoa powder (or try Lafe's Dry Shampoos, available to match a range of hair colors).
When you do shampoo, use a moisturizing variety and switch to a more emollient conditioner; also consider a leave-in conditioner to keep hair smooth and shiny all day.
- Giovanni 2chic Ultra Sleek Leave-In Conditioning & Styling Elixir Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil
- ShiKai Color Reflect Intensive Repair
For deeper treatments, try:
Giovanii Smooth as Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner Nature's Gate Biotin Conditioner
- Using a silk pillowcase can banish morning frizzies.
- Combat hat-head with this simple solution: wrap your hair in a silk scarf before pulling on a wool cap to minimize static electricity.
Resist the urge to hibernate, and seek out invigorating activities instead. Try cross-country skiing, ice-skating, sledding, and hiking. If you live near a lake, explore ice fishing. If you have kids, build snowmen and forts, have an epic snowball battle, or make snow angels.
For days when the weather is just too brutal, plan some fun indoor backups-join a rock climbing gym, sign up for dance classes, or try a spin class.
Be sure to warm up first:
Cold winter weather can affect flexibility by restricting heat and blood flow, says John Schaeffer, fitness trainer and president of the Winning Factor Sports Sciences Training Center.
Also try Holographic Acupressure Discs.
They work by aiding blood flow, which increases muscle temperature to reduce the risk of injury. For more details, visit www.winningfactor.com.
Connect with workout buddies, and encourage each other to brave the cold. Reward yourself afterward with a steam or sauna, and schedule regular massages to keep muscles supple.
Ward off winter colds and flu with helpful supplements that support immunity. Some to try:
- Astragalus, a Chinese herb that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory actions, helps support and protect the immune system to prevent colds and respiratory infections. It's been shown to stimulate white blood cells and can also prevent seasonal allergies.
Try:Paradise Herbs Astragalus.
- Zinc is essential for immune cell function, and even mild deficiencies can suppress immune function. Studies suggest that zinc lozenges can prevent respiratory tract infections or shorten their duration.
Try:NOW Foods L-OptiZinc.
- Mushrooms. Reishi, maitake, and turkey tail (Coriolus versicolor) mushrooms protect against viruses and support overall immune function. Some studies also suggest that they're even more potent when taken with ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb that promotes immune function.
Try:Garden of Life RM-10.
- Probiotics protect against a variety of bacterial and viral illnesses, and are especially useful in preventing and treating diarrhea and inflammation. They're crucial if you've taken a recent course of antibiotics, and can help replenish beneficial bacteria that are destroyed by antibiotics.
Try: Nutrition NOW PB8.
Don't underestimate the power of sunshine in enhancing winter health. But you'll have to work for it: summer months average 15 hours of daylight and sunshine. In January, you'll see only about half that-and if you work a typical 9-to-5 job, most of those will be spent in your office or your car. Because circadian rhythm is largely governed by light exposure, sleep and mood can be dramatically affected. And since sun is the body's primary source of vitamin D, immune function can suffer as well.
Schedule your day around the sun:
- Get outside for at least 10 minutes of sun a day, with as much skin exposed as possible.
- Schedule walks during the lunch hour, when the sun is at the highest point in the sky.
- Take vitamin D3 supplements as a backup. Most studies suggest at least 1,000 IU per day.
Summer's berries, melons, tomatoes, and greens are packed with protective antioxidants. But you'll still find plenty of those in winter's offerings. Pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and acorn squash are especially high in carotenoids such as alpha carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin-antioxidants that support the immune system and enhance mood. In one study, as levels of carotenoids and other antioxidants increased, the likelihood of depression decreased.
For the simplest boosting soup ever, try this: halve two acorn squash and one yellow onion, roast cut side down at 400°F until tender, scoop seeds out of squash, remove skin, and purée squash flesh and onion in a blender with 1 can coconut milk, 2 cups vegetable broth, and 1 teaspoon dried rosemary.
The meditative quiet and stillness of winter can feel like depression, especially when coupled with short days, long nights, and post-holiday blues. During the summer, when neighbors are in their yards, people are walking dogs, and farmers' markets are in full swing, it's easy to interact-not so much in winter, when snow and cold keep us inside.
Make an effort to socialize, so that solitude doesn't slip into sadness. Try organizing a monthly dinner party, with a different country theme every month, joining a book club, or having frequent potlucks. If you work at home, take your laptop to the coffee shop or the library to make interacting easier. And if you're prone to depression, pay special attention to any signs of mood swings. Contact your health care provider if you have any doubts.
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