“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell
As the nights grow longer and temperatures start to drop, it’s easy to fall into the age-old trap of feeling a little dread about winter approaching. And that’s totally natural. We love sunshine and warmth, the activity and outdoor opportunities that spring and summer bring. The truth is that the cold and rain, the limits to being outside, the frosty mornings and dark days can all be a little… glum.
If you sometimes feel the ‘winter is coming’ fear, we have some good news -it doesn’t have to be a scary time. In all things, mindset matters, and winter is really no different. How we approach, imagine, and prepare for the colder months will dictate how we ultimately feel about them, and how well we live through winter.
With that in mind, here eight of our favourite tried and tested tips for truly welcoming winter with open, warmly dressed arms!
Winter is indeed coming. The seasons will always change, and winter will always be one of them. Accepting and appreciating winter for what it is, rather than wishing it away and yearning for warmer days, is the key to being content with the cold. Like moods, and feelings, and stages of our life, the seasons are inevitable. It’s not good for us to write-off a whole quarter of the year as being ‘bad’ or ‘depressing’. Winter simply… is. So don’t dread; accept and prepare. You’ll be glad you did.
If there’s one thing the Swedes know how to do, it’s bear long, cold dark winters with grace and good humour. Which leads us to our next tip, directly from Scandinavia. “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” is one of Sweden’s most famous sayings; so famous that you’ve probably already heard it in English – “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothes”. And how true that is! Make sure you’re warm, toasty, comfy, cosy and always dry throughout Winter. Whether you’re braving an early morning winter run, going for a hike, or just walking around your neighbourhood, the right clothing will make cold or wet weather nothing more than a minor consideration before you leave your house. Treat yourself to some winter clothes that will make you feel like you’re wearing a hug, and being outside in winter will never feel unpleasant.
“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.”
– Paul Theroux
Winter is a quiet, slow season (despite the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping!). In winter, animals gather supplies and prepare to still themselves for hibernation. Plants have a season of slow growth, or in certain instances, no growth at all. It’s a season to rest, replenish, and conserve. Take the opportunity to slow down and let the dark evenings be a gift to your body and mind. Read, meditate, reflect, and plan. Rather than resisting the season, prepare to hibernate and let your mind and body be still, ready for the vibrant growth that comes with spring.
The sun is not around as much, the flowers have disappeared, and trees lay bare – but there’s a lot of beauty in winter, and if you make a mindful effort to find it, it might just change your perspective. Picture the milky pink and blue pastel sunsets of an Irish sky in December, or the glisten of crisp frost on grass before the winter sun has warmed it. There is so much beauty in winter, so why not open your eyes and take the time to take it in and really appreciate it.
Comfort-eat, but cleverly
With the cold weather comes the carb cravings. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Big food brings big comfort, and after eating lovely carbs, our serotonin levels rise and our brains get the ‘happy’ signals that make us feel better even on the coldest, wettest day. But too much of a good thing can leave us feeling sluggish and even a little regretful. The solution is to be smart with your comfort eating. Choose healthy and wholefood carbs when you can, and try to stay away from excessive sugar. A big bowl of delicious wholewheat pasta will comfort you just the same as a deep fried take-away, and you’ll feel a lot better after it too! It’s not about denying yourself, but rather about seeing where you can make yourself feel good not just in the moment, but after the moment too!
Your skin, your hair, your lips, your whole body! For all its rain, winter can be a drying season, and open fires and central heating can play havoc with our bodies. Chapped lips, cracked skin and dehydrated hair can plague us in these months. The good news is, there’s a very easy and very pleasurable solution. First, drink lots of water (herbal teas are great and comforting too) Second, invest in some rich and replenishing masks, balms and body butters to keep you feeling supple and hydrated every day this winter. Your skin, hair, and lips will feel fab, and putting a little time aside to treat your skin and hair means you’ll feel fab inside too.
Stock up with supplements
Vitamin C is important year-round for a healthy and well-supported immune system, but in winter your immune system can do with all the help it can get, so make sure you have some in your cupboard! Probiotics are important too – they’re great for gut health, but there’s also evidence they support the immune system. Magnesium is great for relaxing your muscles and mind, and promoting better sleep – but it’s also vital in producing serotonin, the brain’s happy hormone, so it can be good for your mood and mental health.
Probably the most important winter supplement to take is Vitamin D. Aside from the fact that having enough Vitamin D has been linked to better outcomes for people with Covid-19, we also need it for healthy teeth, muscles, and bones. We get our daily vitamin D requirement from two main sources—our diet, and the sun. In winter however, the sun is not always such a great or reliable source! In fact, research shows 20% of older Irish adults become deficient in winter, and that jumps even higher for those above 70, all because they’re not getting their sunlight fix. A good Vitamin D supplement can make up for the lack of sunlight however, and ensure you get the D-dose you need in winter.
Of course, this is great advice all year round. But in Winter, we can easily lose the motivation to exercise, whether that’s because we feel like it’s too wet or cold to go out walking and running, or simply because it feels a little less urgent to take care of a body that’s hidden away under winter woolies. But moving our bodies and using our energy is about a lot more than a ‘summer beach body’ it’s about our joints, our circulation, our mental health. So even if it’s a daily fireside yoga session in your living room, do try to keep your body active when winter comes. It benefits so much more than your waistline.