How to Thrive in Winter... (1)
By Court McCulloch
Whether you love it or hate it, it’s the season that gets us all a little bit: Skin problems, colds and flus, energy fluctuations, asthma and allergy problems, motivational blocks…
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the depths of a cold New Zealand winter or in the midst of a milder Queensland winter. Most of us just find winter a little bit harder.
All you want is to stay tucked up in bed, hot water bottle present and electric blanket on, with a movie in front of you. Aaaand if you need a snack, it better be comforting, warm and full of energy.
Seriously though… can we all just become hibernating bears…?!
I’m someone who really feels winter.
Whether it's a cold or a flu, eczema, my Fibromyalgia flaring, a lack of motivation... I am not made for rainy, grey days and freezing temperatures (unless I'm on a ski field...).
I used to go into winter waiting for a cold, dreading trying to exercise in the freezing weather, knowing I would always be cold.
And then I decided to change my mindset. I wanted to go into winter knowing that my body was being nourished and was ready to not only fight off infections, but ready to thrive through winter.
And I’ve done just that.
Buuut... when I sat down to let you in on my secrets, there were just so many! So, for now, here is 'Part One' of 'How to Thrive in Winter', with a focus on our physical health... (You can find 'Part Two' here!)
(Please remember, these are the things that work for me (and that I swear by!). I will never ever talk about things without knowing fool-proof that they work for me – especially products! On that note, please remember I am in no way related to or sponsored by any products that I’ve mentioned. I just love them that much!
While I've been careful to include only scientifically-backed research (cited below in the references section for your interest!), all opinions in this piece are mine and aren't substitute for medical treatment. These are simply things that work well for me!)
Make your gut your best friend
THIS. IS. MY. NUMBER. ONE. TIP.
The majority of our immune system (around 80%!) is housed in our gut. So… if your gut isn’t healthy, how do you expect your immune system to be healthy?
When our gut (and our body for that matter!) aren't at optimal, they're trying to balance all sorts of different things. But when it's nourished and healthy, it can put its energy into places that really need it... like our immune system!
Additionally, I really struggle with eczema and I find having good digestion really helps this. For anyone with skin conditions, you'll get me on how frustrating it can be. In winter, I usually spend longer in a hot shower, I have more layers on (making it harder for my skin to breathe), my skin is slightly dryer and I struggle to drink as much water as I should... all of this just makes the perfect conditions for an eczema flare up!
So… how do I nourish my gut?
Prebiotics are the food that feeds our good bacteria (only they can eat it!)... and we want these little guys to stay well fed so they can thrive!
Where can you find them? In a diet rich in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, kumara (sweet potato), potato, asparagus, aubergine, onion and garlic... among others of course!
These are edible living bacteria that help our gut be at its best. These little guys are found in fermented foods like yoghurts, cheeses, Kombucha and sauerkraut. One of my ‘can’t live without’ products is my Glow probiotic powder from The Beauty Chef. I have this every single day, and it has made a huge difference to my gut health!
Warm lemon water
This is my total non-negotiable every single morning! As soon as I'm up, I'll have a big glass. I've been asleep for 8 hours without hydration, so it helps rehydrate my body and flush my digestion system. The warmth in the water also means it's more easily absorbed.
This is so good in winter, and is my go-to snack! Not only is it warming, it is SUPER nourishing for your gut. Full of anti-inflammatory, skin-clarifying and collagen-building minerals and amino acids properties, it’s one of my favourite healing food.
All of these things are non-negotiable for me... every single day.
Nourish your body
Our digestive system isn't the only thing that needs a little love...
Drink more water
If I'm honest, I can be a real shocker with drinking enough water. But it’s something I consciously work on by setting alarms to remind myself to have a glass of water.
Drinking water helps us to maintain temperature, cleanse cells, eliminate waste and digest food. It also helps keep our cells well hydrated!
If I'm really struggling, I'll add some cucumber, lemon or mint to my water to make it a little more tasty (and with added nutrients!)...
Fill your body with REAL food
Vitamins help to boost our immune system and ward off sickness. The best way to get them? Through REAL food. Food is jam-packed full of nutrients that keep us functioning at our best.
My never-miss vitamin hit is my morning lemon water - my Vitamin C hit. I also jam-pack my days full of vegetables to make sure I'm getting as many nutrients as I can. Nourishing vegetable soups are my number one go-to!
I also try to increase fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and oils like coconut and olive to help keep my skin moisturised and protected from dryness - which helps to keep my eczema at bay!
Ugh. I KNOW. It’s cold and the last thing you want to do is go and exercise.
Here’s the thing though… exercise is essential in winter.
Why? Because when we exercise, we promote blood flow circulation. This helps to transport oxygen and nutrients around a body a whole lot faster. More than that, exercise helps to boost our mood (important during grey days!), lower our stress levels and detox our bodies. So if you want to get a winter glow on, this is the best way!
Give yourself options.
In winter, I’ll give myself three or four options that I can turn to depending on the weather. If it’s raining, I’ll heat up a room and spend some time doing restorative yoga. If the weather is clear, I’ll be out for a walk or a run. And if the weather is good up the mountain, I’ll be skiing.
Don't force yourself to do something because you 'should' do it. Make it easy for yourself!
Find a friend
Trust me. You are SO much more likely to get moving when it's cold if you know you're accountable to someone else (plus, it's always a good way to catch up!).
Whether it's going for a walk, hitting a class together, going to a restorative yoga practice... get someone else in on it!
Listen to your body
I know, cliche... but it's seriously true.
It's so important that you get to know your body and that you learn to understand all its messages. Understand whether it's just an excuse, or if you really need to take some time out.
It's the first thing I turn to... curling up on the couch with a warming cup of tea, some hearty vegetable soup and a good movie is my number one healing activity... when I really need it!
It's one thing to make excuses when you don't want to go to work, or if you don't want to exercise... but if you're really feeling a little bit on the average side, take some time out! And most importantly, TAKE ALL JUDGEMENT OUT OF THE EQUATION. Do not judge yourself for allowing yourself to rest.
In How to Thrive in Winter (2) (which you can find here!), I'm putting more of a focus on how to nourish our MINDSET when those winter greys are getting us a little bit down... plus, I'm also highlighting the importance of looking at our living environment!
BY COURTENAY MCCULLOCH
Founder of Thrive Collective, activewear-wearing, brunch-loving, dog-obsessed girl on a mission to help all women realise their real potential and start living a life where they thrive in every moment.