Staying happy and healthy in winter takes a bit of effort. How ironic is that? The very time of year when your only true friend is the sofa and buying biscuits is the highpoint of the week, yet you have to work harder than ever. The good news is, it’s not that difficult to make a few fast lifestyle tweaks and develop one or two good winter health habits.
1. Get Active
Exercise is essential in winter, but anyone who starts marathon training from scratch at this time of year isn’t likely to be pounding any pavements come January. The trick is to find something you already enjoy doing and do more of it. Set realistic goals and keep yourself motivated. If you’re joining a class, join with a friend – a bit of competition is worth a lifetime of inspirational quotes. And you only need to do 150 minutes of exercise a week to make a difference – that’s five brisk half-hour walks, easy.
2. Be A Super-Foodie
There’s no conclusive scientific evidence to support the wild claims about a lot of so-called superfoods. Quinoa is the exception. It’s a brilliant winter substitute for starchy – but comforting – pasta or potatoes. Inexpensive and easy to find, it’s not a rare and costly celebrity indulgence. It’s delicious, gluten-free, low in fat and has only about 100 calories in an average serving. Quinoa’s easy to make and keeps in the fridge. So you can add it to salads or healthy soups, boost them into complete meals and help avoid depressing winter weight gain.
3. Let In The Light
It may not feel like it, but only about 15% of the UK population suffer from SAD (seasonal affect disorder). The rest of us just need to get out more or let in more light during the short, dark days of winter. Glazed, bifold doors are an easy and effective way to open up a room and take advantage of every second of daylight without having to venture out into the cold. And if they’re garden facing, you can stay cosy inside and plan your spring planting.
4. Don’t Hibernate
Tempting as it is, don’t curl up and sleep any chance you get in winter. Naps are counter-productive, disrupt valuable night time sleep and leave you feeling gloomier than ever. Instead, be ready for bed when it’s bedtime, get a full 8 hours rest and you’ll notice the difference in no time. Don’t watch TV or stare at a computer immediately before bed, keep your bedroom cool and your bedlinen warm and avoid hot, milky drinks – try a soothing, sleepy tea instead.
5. Find Your Fascination
Winter might not be great for a lot of things but it’s a good time of year to try something new. Schools and universities are where to find courses on everything from conversational French to coding. Local Community Centres often have classes too. And, if finding time away from home is an issue, the internet’s awash with distance learning opportunities ranging from basic drawing lessons to recognised qualifications. Make some space in your day, get interested and before you know it winter will be over and you could well have a new, lifelong passion.
6. Boost Your Immune System
Eating fruit in summer is easy, come winter it’s more difficult to find delicious exotic fruits in most supermarkets and nobody loves apples enough to eat them endlessly for months on end. The solution is to get skilled at smoothies and discover the joys of frozen berries. They’re just as nutritious, packed with taste and full of immune system boosting properties to stave off colds and protect against irritating low-grade winter infections. And you definitely don’t need to invest a fortune in a designer smoothie maker. A standard liquidiser does just as well or you can find a smoothie specialist for about the same price as a carton of so-called ‘fresh’ strawberries in December.
But one of the best ways to be happier this winter is to be kind to yourself. No matter how busy you are, make some time that’s your time at least once a day. Give yourself a treat now and again – especially if you keep up with the exercise. And when you’re looking after everyone else and making sure they’re healthy and happy, remember to look after you too.
What are your favourite ways to stay happy during the chilly winter months?
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