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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 August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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