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7 Ways to Make the Most of Winter

7 Ways to Make the Most of Winter

Winter is well and truly upon us, and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere like Yours Truly, chances are you’ve been experiencing some seriously low temperatures and long, dark nights. It’s a funny time of the year, isn’t it? On the one hand, we feel buoyed by the warmth and togetherness brought about by the holidays and on the other, the almost perpetual darkness and the cruel, biting wind nipping aggressively at our noses can have a terribly damaging effect on our moods and motivation.

There’s no denying that winter can be a bit of an emotional – and physical, since those chapped lips and frozen fingertips don’t lie) – rollercoaster, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all that terrible. In fact, play your cards right, and winter can be a rich and fulfilling season. To prove it, I have come up with seven actionable steps to make the best of the cold days and dark nights. But first, let’s take a look at why we should embrace this difficult time of the year instead of fearing it.

Why winter isn’t actually all that bad

Believe it or not, there is plenty to love about winter and cold weather – yes, even the biting cold! Indeed, there is a myriad of evidence that cooler temperatures can, in fact, be beneficial to our wellbeing. Consider this:

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-According to a study recently published in the journal ‘Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism’, colder temperatures may in fact help you lose weight. Indeed, prolonged exposure to cold requires our bodies to work harder to keep warm, thereby increasing our energy expenditure – i.e., our calorie burn. Who would’ve thought?

-Another study has revealed that the ideal temperature for sleeping is in fact lower than we may think. Hovering between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 15 to 20 degrees Celcius), it would appear that we are in fact built for getting our most restful sleep in chilly conditions. Seems like winter may in fact be the seasonal equivalent of the Sandman!

-This is 100% biased, of course, but in my opinion, Mother Nature is at her most beautiful at this time of her year. Not only is she wrapped in the most gorgeous snowy drapes, the produce she yields in winter is not only utterly delicious but also among the healthiest out there. Dig in!

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-Believe it or not, colder temperatures are apparently conducive to more focused brain activity. This means that winter is the perfect time for getting some serious studying, planning and plotting done. Guess all those New Years resolutioners were onto something, am I right?

Now that we’ve established that winter isn’t actually all that bad, here are seven ways to make the most of this most gorgeous of seasons!

1. Get active!

One of the best ways to make the most of winter is to develop, or maintain, an active lifestyle. Indeed, beyond the usual health benefits, exercising during the winter may help alleviate the symptoms of an insidious illness – seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). There are many ways of treating this disorder but, surprisingly, working out appears to be particularly effective. Do yourself a favor this season and get your sweat on – not only to keep that body in good shape, but also to protect your mental health.

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2. Enjoy the great outdoors.

Nature is arguably at its most spectacular, if not most beautiful, at this time of the year – the stark landscapes and soft, pillowy snow, if you’re so lucky, are the perfect backdrop for epic outdoors adventures. Grab some friends, prepare a picnic and set out into the great outdoors! Not only will it make for a great story afterwards, indulging in some outdoor play is also beneficial for other reasons. Namely…

3. Seize the day(light)!

Much like exercise, getting enough light – preferably natural – during the winter is vitally important in order to prevent seasonal affective disorder, and reducing its symptoms. Getting out and about during daylight hours, or alternatively, exposing yourself to artificial light that mimics sunlight, is not only good for the soul, but also great for your mental health. A good rule of thumb? Try exposing yourself to direct sunlight for 15 minutes a day!

4. Eat in season and discover some of the healthiest produce for you.

Winter is one of my favorite seasons, in terms of fruit and vegetables. From kale and brussels sprouts, to clementines, pomegranates and sweet potatoes, the colder months are home to some of the most powerful superfoods out there. Eating in season in winter will not only guarantee you the freshest, best quality produce; it will also keep your body, and most importantly, your stomach happy with these incredibly delicious foods!

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5. Get your pampering on.

Another way to keep the winter blues at bay is to indulge in some serious pampering. The long, dark nights are the perfect excuse to hole yourself up in your bathroom, have a good, long soak and really take care of yourself. Not only will you harness all the cosiness that winter can muster, you’ll also be better equipped for tackling any challenges the season may throw at you! Pampering yourself doesn’t have to mean hanging out in the bathtub, of course. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate, a good book in a warm room – anything that’ll make you feel incredible.

6. Do an end-of-year review and some New Year planning.

Like I mentioned above, the winter months are conducive to more brain activity; this means that now is the perfect time to get some serious planning and plotting done in order to make the New Year awesome! Take advantage of the long, quiet, dark nights to review the past year and set relevant, challenging goals for the year ahead. Nothing beats tackling a new phase in your life with some solid groundwork under the belt!

7. Learn something new.

Similarly, winter is a great time to buckle down and learn a new skill. Make the most of this quieter time to make some headway on learning a new language, a new instrument or a new dish. The world is your oyster!

Winter may not feel like the highlight of your year just yet, but these seven ideas will set you on the right path! Which one will you try first? Do you have any other ideas to turn that winter frown upside down? Please share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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