Simple Choices for a Healthy Winter Season
As summer is behind us and autumn arrives, we tend to spend more time inside, both mentally and physically. All seasons are a time of transition and with that comes some shedding of old and beginning again. It is more important than ever to take care of ourselves so we have the strength to take care of others both mentally and physically, especially in times of transition. To some this is also known as the practice of self-care. I offer some of the following suggestions as additional ways you can feel as good and happy all winter long just as you have in the warm summer months beyond just the lovely yoga class or the great walk in the woods you can take.
1. Seek Out the Sun. To keep your mind and body healthy try to get an hour minimum of sunlight each day. Even on the coldest of days one can put on an extra layer and go for a walk, or get out the snow shoes, chop the wood, cross country ski, or even sit in your sunniest room in your house at the sunniest time of day. I have one friend who walks around her sunny house just to move around. If you work in an office or a dark building try to eat your lunch outside or near a sunny window. If you are a student, try sitting in a sunny window in a library to study. If you go to a café, make it a sunny one. I sometimes choose restaurants based on the amount of sunshine I can get in the winter, of course there has to also be good healthy food as well. The difference the daily dose of vitamin D will make on your mood is clearly noticeable.
2. Put on some music. Whatever your fancy, music is uplifting and can brighten your day and shift a dreary day into a happier one in seconds.
3. Create a Cozy Atmosphere. The Danish have a practice called “hygge” pronounced, hooga, which really translates into my favorite way of life, which is coziness. This could mean making your home a peaceful place where you can relax, treasuring time with family members or having dinner with friends where everyone can enjoy the conversation. Create a warm, relaxing atmosphere by lighting candles as soon as the sun goes down. It can be one or quite a few. The candlelight is soothing and comforting and puts your mind in to a calm state we don’t always receive from harsher lighting. The Danes use more candles than any other country in Europe and it is no surprise that they are among the happiest people in the world in study after study. Even a walk in the woods or down the street with a friend or your dog can be called hygge. The practice of hygge is also a huge part in people’s lives in other European countries but is known by a different term such as hyggelig in Norway and gemuetlich in Germany and Switzerland. When I first moved back to the United States form Switzerland 17 years ago, I realized I had walked everywhere in the winter so I started parking as far away as I could no matter where I went whether to the grocery store, the cleaners, my favorite yoga studio or the office. I continued this in the winter because even 10 minutes in the cold can be invigorating and uplifting especially with the sun and snow. So park a little farther and walk a little more. A few endorphins can always help the mood stay positive. You may be surprised at the feeling a few extra minutes walk will add to your day.
4. Consume Warm Food & Beverages. For most people, as the weather chills we crave warm foods. I have to confess, instead of water, I love to drink herbal teas in the winter instead. This adds to the feeling of hygge. A few favorites are rooibos and fennel. The rooibos is African red tea that is as hydrating as water. It is a nice alternative and without caffeine. Fennel tea is a wonderful calming herb. It also helps cure colic in babies who are 6 months of age or older as well as acting as an anti-spasmodic for a stomach ache in a sick child. If you are unable to find the tea bags, one-teaspoon fennel seeds per cup steeped and strained for five minutes with boiling water will make a lovely tea.
As much as I would love to say I eat salads all winter, I have to say I don’t always. I swap out my salads for green soup and below I will list my two favorite recipes. I call it my green smoothie soup and I honestly have this most every day. It’s a wonderful way to include anti-inflammatory green vegetables in your diet in a fast warming way.
The most important factor in determining happiness is our relationships with those close to us. It is the practice of spending quality time with friends and family that really creates the cozy feeling we all crave. So grab a cup of tea, warm mulled wine or some soup. Try eating your dinner by candlelight and treat yourself to some calming quiet moments to allow yourself some self-care and embrace the changing season as it arrives.
Green Smoothie Soup (adapted from an original 20 year old recipe)
- 4 zucchini (yellow summer squash is also a good alternative)
- 1 sweet onion or leek
- 1 bunch Dill
- 1 bag frozen baby peas (use fresh when available)
- ½ bag baby lima beans(use fresh when available)
- Salt and pepper to taste (if wanted)
- 2 cups of kale, fresh or frozen
- Other options: Add 1 cup of whatever else you have in your fridge that is green (spinach, brussel sprouts, regular or savoy cabbage, etc.)
- 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
- Sauté the onion until soft. Cut the zucchini in thick slices and add all other ingredients with enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover.
- Cook about 20 minutes. If you are adding kale or spinach, I add these after 15 minutes.
- Transfer ingredients to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot.
- Enjoy! I like to serve this with Irish brown bread and also love to take the soup in a bottle to go!
Alison Metsker AADP, IHC is a Certified Integrative Holistic Health Coach and Nutrition Teacher. She is also a trained French chef and has been studying nutrition for over 20 years. For more information contact her at 207-749-2905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.