*By: Christi Shingara*
The winter months can be long and grueling with the colder weather and that dreaded time change. Darkness starts setting in around 4:30pm, which can make the evenings feel like they go on forever. It is important to stay healthy and help our internal clock catch-up. Here are some ways to help you cope with the darker days.
Nourish Your Body
Your mood greatly depends on what you eat. During the darker months we tend to eat more and maybe put on an extra few pounds. To keep your blood-sugar in check and avoid feeling sluggish, some foods to consider are protein-rich choices such as fish, meats and nuts. If you want to avoid meat, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives such as tofu and beans (like chickpeas). Other foods to eat during the long winter months are oatmeal, citrus fruits, spinach, eggs and avacados. These foods are packed with protein and fiber to give your body a nutritious boost of energy.
Physical movement is key to boosting mood and keeping blood flowing. If you don’t have an hour or even 30-minutes to spare, a 5–10-minute shorter workout can be enough to keep you energized. Don’t feel like you have to do a vigorous cardio workout to see results in your body and mood. Less intense exercises such as yoga and Pilates are just as beneficial to maintaining mental and physical health and prove to be very relaxing.
Keeping a consistent bedtime routine is key to a good night’s rest. Going to bed and waking up at the same time is beneficial to staying healthy and also acclimating your body to the time change. Other benefits to consistent sleep include ease of waking up, improving alertness, less irritability, better immune system function and decreased sleep deprivation.
Relax before bedtime
An hour or so before you head to bed you should start winding down. Make sure not to have caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime. Also, exercising before you go to bed isn’t helpful as it increases your heart rate and makes you more energized. Ways to relax include turning off electronic devices, reading a book, practicing meditation and dimming the lights. I personally like to have an herbal tea such as Yogi Bedtime Tea. It calms me down and warms me up in the winter months.
Start your day with sunlight
Natural sunlight is essential for regulating mood and sleep cycles and getting some Vitamin D first thing in the morning is important. However, for some it might not be always possible. If your wake-up time is before sunrise and getting outdoors during the day is a challenge, using light therapy as a stand-in for natural sunlight can be a great alternative. A light therapy box is a small device that emits a type of artificial light shown to mimic outdoor light. When used in the morning it can jump start your internal clock and help it sync with the clock on your phone. For maximum effectiveness, use the light box for about 20-30 minutes within an hour of waking up every day and sit about 16-24 inches away from the box, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
Also, brightening up your living space and opening the drapes during the day are ways to let in more of the season’s limited light.
These few tips will help you get through the long winter months and remember that spring isn’t that far away!
Have some tips and tricks to cope with the time change? Let us know in the comments below!