Whether you like it or not, winter in the north is here. January can be a long, cold, and even sad month. I know I have had some that are only good when they are over.
That is a sad thought. I have a better idea – instead of hanging out in this long, dreary month, let’s make this our best one yet.
Winter is a time our bodies naturally want to slow down and look inward. I love the feeling of being inside with my family all around me on those particularly cold nights.
Let’s honour our bodies, listen to their wisdom, and start to love these winter months for all the beauty and wonder that they are.
If this sounds like a far-off dream to you, keep reading! Below are simple ideas to keep you in touch with the magic of the season and to maybe have you feeling a little better.
Winter is the time that nature is resting and quiet. This can be translated to us as well because, no matter how much we fight it, we are a part of nature. Take this time to get plenty of rest and relaxation, look toward your inner warmth, and enjoy the darkness by getting some beautiful sleep.
That all sounds great, but HOW can we actually do this? What does rest look like and what does your inner warmth mean?
Below is a list of actual things you can do to listen to your body and hopefully enjoy winter!
A Winter Diet
If you want to start to eat more seasonally, it may be hard to know what is actually in season right now because we have everything at our fingertips all the time. Below is a list of food that our bodies may be craving:
Cooked or steamed veggies are great in the winter to help warm the body. Try to limit heated oil because this can be hard on the liver. Vegetable soups are a great addition to the winter diet. They are warming, full of nutrients, as well as easy to digest. Root veggies are another great addition. These connect you to the warmth of the earth – potatoes, beets, turnip, carrot, onions. Garlic and ginger are also roots to try more of for warmth.
Cooked whole grains are great for warming the body and are good for the intestines and elimination. They are a preferred source of energy for the body and are easily used as fuel. Grains to try: buckwheat, millet, sorghum, quinoa, wild or brown rice, wheat berries.
Eat as snacks, toppers on salads or soups, or roasted. Try making your own nut milks, if you feel so inclined. My one piece of advice when it comes to homemade nut milk is to not make too much of it at one time because it goes bad within a few days. Make only what you know you will use.
Seaweed is highly nutritious. They are high in protein, vitamins A & E, and rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iodine, and other trace minerals. Iodine is one of those minerals that may not make it into a vegan’s diet if they are not trying. This will directly affect the thyroid gland.
Eating seaweed is a great way to make sure you are getting enough. Check out kelp, dulse, nori, wakame, and arame. There is something for everyone. I have a shaker of kelp flakes in my spice rack to sprinkle on to my food with pepper.
Soybeans – Tofu, Tempeh, Miso
This is a confusing topic for a lot of people. There are studies that reveal opposing views on the intake of soy and how it affects the body. The great thing is, you can listen to your own body to see if you should eat it or leave it alone.
Fermented soy is so great to add to your diet in the form of miso and tempeh. They will aid digestion and metabolism. When using miso, let the water cool a bit before adding it. Boiling water will destroy the living bacteria and enzymes that are the reason miso is so helpful in the body.
When purchasing tofu and whole soybeans, you want to make sure you are getting organic and GMO-free. We do not know how GMOs are going to affect us long-term, and I would rather you not be a guinea pig for those companies!
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Outdoor winter activity can have very positive effects on both our body as well as our minds. We are meant to be in nature, to be a part of it, and to be in contact with the earth. When we go for long periods of time without this connection, we can feel it.
It can show up as mood swings and stress in the body. When we get out in nature, it naturally brings our stress levels down (which in itself relieves many body systems) and aids the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems.
Below is a simple list of ways to get out in nature in the winter:
Walking In Your Neighbourhood
A simple 10 minute walk around your neighbourhood can lift your mood significantly. Take deep, relaxing breaths in and release slow, long breaths out as you go. Notice things around you – birds, trees, the sky, neighbours that are out and about. Allow yourself to be in the moment and appreciate what you have going on around you. Nature is everywhere.
Snowshoeing, Skating, Cross-Country Skiing
I love all of these activities because you are creating your own energy and warmth and nature is just there to help you along. You have the wonderful quietness of nature all around you and it is yours to take in! Plus a hot chocolate or tea taste extra yummy after some outdoor time.
Tobogganing, winter festivals, and playing with the kids are other great ways to get out there.
You do not need to always be outside to connect to your body. Yoga is a great activity for winter because it can be slow and relaxing and restful, just like our body wants during this season.
You do not need to find a studio to enjoy the benefits of yoga. There are so many free videos you can find online to help you get your home practice started.
Winter is a great time to get in touch with what is going on inside you – both mentally and physically. It is a time to retreat into quiet and look for our own source of warmth and love.
There is no better way to ‘look within’ than meditation. At the very least, meditation is a great reliever of stress, so after each time you sit quietly, you will feel better. There are many great books and teachers of meditation, so you will be sure to find exactly what you need and want when you search it out.
There are so many methods and techniques, so if you are interested, find one that resonates with you and your life and give it a try. For example – you can meditate by counting breaths, repeating a mantra, visualizing, there are guided meditations, you can sit, lay, stand, walk. Anything you need, you will find!
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Winter is a time to slow down, to look within, and to spark our own warmth and love. It’s okay to take it easy (if you are able) and just take it all in. What is your body telling you?
Take the time to get that cup of tea and sip it slowly. Feel the warmth on your hands, your lips and mouth, and as it flows through your body.