The countdown to spring has started
With only one month of winter remaining it is time to take stock of how you feel. You might be craving sunshine to replenish your energy and entice you outdoors to move your body. You may have been slowed down during winter by a cold or flu and you now desire a day when you don’t have to carry a packet of tissues or a handkerchief.
1) Replenish your energy for spring with quality sleep
Bears hibernate in winter. It is also a time for us to make the most of the longer nights to rest and sleep. Most adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Whilst we cannot store up sleep hours for future use, we can catch up on sleep debt by enjoying a few additional hours of sleep on our days off work. The warmer weather of spring will be inviting and we will want to make the most of additional daylight hours. Establish a good sleep routine before spring and summer tempt us to reduce our sleep time.
2) Keep up the fluids
We can feel tired and lethargic due to dehydration. Air-conditioning and other forms of heating increase our need to drink hydrating fluids. I recommend room temperature or warm drinks for winter. From an Eastern perspective warm fluids are more easily tolerated and our body doesn’t have to expend energy to heat them up. Good options include:
- White, green, oolong and black tea
- Herbal tisanes, especially those with a little ginger and other warming spices
- Fresh filtered tap water at room temperature
The best way of knowing if you are well hydrated is to monitor the colour of your urine. Urine that has a dilute straw colour indicates that you are maintaining your fluid balance. Some medications and supplements will darken the colour of your urine, so make allowances for this.
3) Keep your body warm
We conserve energy by wearing appropriate clothing — jackets, scarves, gloves and a hat. Layering your clothing makes it easier for moving between heated buildings and a cooler outside temperature. Always make the effort to remove your jacket and scarf or pashmina when you go indoors and put them back on when you go outside. This simple action will help you to regulate your body temperature more effectively.
4) Make the most of sun time
When possible have your morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea outdoors in the sunshine. Some time in the sun will help to regulate your melatonin levels, which plays a vital role in assisting good quality sleep. We now know that sleep plays a central role in balancing hormones that affect our mood, body weight and other health conditions such as diabetes.
5) Keep your body moving for spring
Outdoor activity always seems easier when the weather is enticing. But an early morning walk, even through the frost, is invigorating and gets your blood and Qi (energy) moving. Dress warmly with a hat, gloves and scarf. Wear a light jacket that you can easily carry if you get too warm. During the day walk or cycle to and from work rather than driving or catching public transport. Also walk up stairs in preference to a lift or elevator. If you are mostly sitting during the day for work or other commitments, every 45 – 50 minutes take a break from what you are doing and stand and stretch.
6) Breathe well
Take notice of how you are breathing. Abdominal breathing is more effective than chest breathing. As you breathe in your stomach should rise and as you breathe out it should lower. When we are stressed or maintaining poor posture, for example slouched over a desk or computer, we take in less oxygen and we are less efficient at removing carbon dioxide. Focusing on your breath is a form of meditation. Practising abdominal breathing will quieten a busy mind and calm a stressed or anxious one. Breathing well will also increase your energy levels — you will be able to focus your mind and will feel more capable of physical activity.
7) Base your meals and snacks on plant foods
Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grain cereals and legumes provide the right mix of vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, such as antioxidants, and fibre to boost our immune system and our mood. These foods play a crucial role in maintaining healthy gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria produce compounds that interact with our hormones and other messengers in the body to influence our health. Simple warming foods for winter include:
- Mix grain porridge
- Poached fruits
- Vegetable based soups, casseroles and curries, such as dhal and yellow curry
Recharge in winter and expend in spring
Make the most of the remaining weeks of winter to rest and recharge your batteries, boost your immunity and move your body. By establishing good sleep, eating and activity routines now, you will be well placed to enjoy spring.