Winter Wellness Tips
Winter can be a tough time, and it all comes down to our own habits of mind and the actions we choose to take. When patients feel the doldrums coming on, it is helpful to circle back to daily routines and stay on track with mental and physical health. Here are some tweaks that use principles of functional medicine during the cold winter months and are safe for most people.
Get Plenty of Light and Fresh Air: A decrease in sunlight and outdoor activity can disrupt the body’s internal systems, including our sleep-wake cycle, called the circadian rhythm. When that happens, gut microflora (that live inside the gastrointestinal tract and love predictability in all aspects of waking life) lessen their output. We can actually feel the difference, thanks to the feelgood hormone serotonin that is made in the gut and used by the brain.
To rectify any negative impacts on our gut microbiome from shortened days and disrupted routines, be sure to bundle up and go for short walks when safe and practical on a daily basis. Getting plenty of light and fresh air (along with some regular movement) will boost your spirits, too.
Stay Physically and Socially Active: Another great tip is to remain both physically and socially active walking the dog, participating in food drives and the like, or engaging in other community events. During winter, it can be much easier to stay indoors, isolated from being around people and doing what we love. Even if the weather is cold and dreary outside, get the blood flowing and improve cardio and strength with a few squats or a little bit of yoga. Getting the blood flowing is great for the heart and is essential to how our bodies and our brains detoxify.
Plus, remaining active aids in a great night’s sleep, which is a side benefit of winter—having a cool, dark bedroom. As far as being social, a little goes a long way. Call a friend and out for a quick lunch with them once a week, or maybe go see a new movie.
Avoid Sugar Cravings and Crashes: There’s a common diet trap that many people fall into during winter, which is eating our emotions by ingesting too many sugary foods. Quick access to cakes, candy, and cookies (and processed carbs in general) can not only spike our glucose levels (and soothe endorphins), but they can intensify certain negative moods and increase overall fatigue and tiredness when the spike crashes. This can then turn into a vicious cycle.
Have on hand healthy vegetable, nut, bean, fruit, and whole-seed snacks topped with your favorite nut butter or healthy dietary fat like avocado, coconut, or even butter. Avoid mindless eating and hand-to-mouth munching. Try setting a timer to go off every 15 minutes and take large sips of nutrient-fortified water like a morning mineral tonic. Adequate hydration is one of the best ways to maintain a healthier weight over winter and lower the risk of inflammation.
While these three tips may seem obvious and easy to implement, sticking with their day in and day out can be the hardest challenge. This is why turning them into tiny rituals is key. Start small, then, make a habit of it. Find out what works best and have it become part of an overall healthy lifestyle by making the changes permanent.
Dr. Doug Pucci, For information on conquering health issues naturally using a natural, holistic approach called functional medicine, visit GetWell-Now.com, choose “Learn More” and register for the free Root Cause Solution minicourse.