Oh January.. you have felt like an eternity! After living in London for the past 5 years, I have learned a few tricks to cope with the depths of Winter. See.. where I come from in the South of France, winters are cold, and can be as cold as here in the UK but we have so much more LIGHT! Days with clear skies are not a rarity, unlike here in London where the norm is grey with more grey..! (I mean don’t get me wrong we have the odd sunny day here too, and they’re glorious!) but as a ratio, I grew up with far more sunlight, which I find to be vital in the winter time.
So 5 years in London and 4 years in the UK prior to that has meant that I’ve picked up some tricks along the way to not only survive but thrive through the winters, truly embracing them and finding beauty in the grey…
As a health & wellness coach, I’ve also picked up a few tricks which I hope will be beneficial to you. Let me know if you try and implement any of those tips in the comments below!
Sunrise Alarm: In the Autumn last year I decided to cave and buy a Lumie Sunrise alarm. I wasn’t sure if it was going to make much difference, but boy did it deliver! When the days got shorter and shorter, it was truly a blessing to wake up slowly to a warm glow, and birds chirping (you can decide whether you want a sound at the end of the 30min sunrise to make sure you’re awake… goats are also an option for some reason too… )
After a couple of weeks using it, we truly saw a difference in how we felt in the morning, we woke up slowly, calmly without the sudden shock that most alarms give you. I don’t believe it’s particularly good to start your day with a boost of cortisol (the stress hormone) induced by a sudden sharp alarm noise..! It doesn’t set you up for a good day! We tend to be awake within 15min of the 30min sunrise cycle (you can choose for the sunrise AND sunsets to be either 20, 30 or 45min long), and we definitely wake up before the final bird sounds come on!
Bedtime Routine: I also love the sunset feature, which really helps wind me down before bed (I promise this is NOT sponsored by Lumie, this is just an honest review of our experience) I touched on this subject on Instagram a couple of days ago, saying that most nights I try and only have soft lighting, and a strict no screens for about an hour before bedtime. It helps your body produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone, and helps you wind down and get ready for deep sleep. As you probably already know, blue light is a huge problem when it comes to everyone’s quality of sleep (same with stimulants such as coffee.. but that’s perhaps another post for another day) so we set a no-screen rule before bed (usually no screens past 9PM is our rule!) and I only use really soft lighting, like our salt lamps (we have one in every room), candles, and strictly NO overhead lighting! (use anything that gives a soft warm glow, your eyes will quickly adjust I promise!) Take this time to set yourself up a calming night routine, read a book and settle in for a good night of restorative sleep.
If you suspect that you are suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) do get in touch with your GP to talk about it! It’s totally normal and happens to a lot of us. I have heard that these lights help a lot of people who suffer with SAD! xx
As always, check with your GP before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on medication, breastfeeding and/or pregnant. I’m not a doctor and these are just products I personally love and use.
Vitamin D3 : as we know Vitamin D is extremely important and has powerful effects on a multitude of systems in the body. One of them being calcium absorption, but it’s also extremely important to keep your immune system strong, helping you fight off viruses and bacteria. Low levels of vit D have also been linked to depression, fatigue, hair loss etc.. it’s very important to make sure you have enough of it! This is obviously easier to do in the summer via the sun, but in the winter – especially when you live far away from the equator and daylight isn’t abundant, eg in northern countries like the UK – and you don’t expose your skin to any sunlight, I believe a big part of the population should supplement it in the winter..
I like using this one from My Kind Organics by Garden of Life, tastes like vanilla! (it’s derived from whole plants, lichen actually! and contains no nasties) I have found via trial and error that taking it in the morning alongside a healthy fat such as avocado or a nut butter is best. As it’s a fat soluble vitamin, and can affect your melatonin production (at first I spent a few restless nights after taking it in the evening.. so I now make sure to take it with breakfast!) I also love using this “Vegan Health” spray which contains not only Vitamin D, but also your B12, iodine and iron if you’d like to have them all in one spray!
Magnesium : This is something I’ve only just started supplementing with when I feel a bit overwhelmed, and need a good night sleep. Magnesium is definitely available in abundance in things such as pumpkin seeds, quinoa, black beans, chard, spinach, dark chocolate… but sometimes you need a little boost, and I’ve been enjoying using this one before bedtime. I feel like it helps me sleep deeper, and helps to relax and calm me down if I’m stressed!
Essential Oils : I diffuse oils ALL the time! This is the diffuser I use, and I recently got this one too for our bedroom. Not only do they help and lift your mood (Orange! Lemon! Lavender! Bergamot! Cedarwood!…) they also help clear some germs floating about! (read more about my cold & flu remedies post that I use all through the winter, to read more about which oils I like to use as prevention) Diffusing oils also adds moisture back into the air which helps to avoid colds..!
Food : Of course I believe in eating a whole foods plant-based diet to feel energised and your best through the winter. Eating lots of healthy fats, warming foods like curries, broths, calorie-dense foods such as sweet potatoes, whole grains, sweet fruits.. and hydrating! I like to start my day with my green smoothies which I jam pack with dark greens, ginger, citrus fruits, seeds (chia, hemp and flax) I sometimes add echinacea for a boost too! You can see the formula I use most days in my instagram highlight called “smoothie” here! Winters can be so drying, with central heating everywhere and changes in temperatures, I try and hit 3L of water a day (and coffee and tea don’t count!)
Working Out : This is something that took me a LOOOONG time to understand, and put into practice. I would say that generally I’m not the athletic kind. I grew up very active riding horses several times a week, and that was my favourite thing in the world until I moved to the UK and had to stop.. mostly because it’s extremely expensive here, and I was a student.
So 10 years down the line, I’ve learned once again how beneficial moving my body is. I tried many different activities, I tried gym memberships (they all failed) I tried workout classes (mostly hated all of them) I tried doing HIIT sessions at home (felt like I was going to pass out every time and then didn’t do it again for weeks) UNTIL… until last year when I discovered the amazing Melissa Wood.
Her workouts have been a godsend. Finally, something that I could do at home, which took between 10 and 30min max, made me feel calm and not like I was bashing my body, and it gave me actual results! As in this is the first time in 10 years where I can see some proper ab definition (and I’m not even that religious about doing her workouts!)
Working out is very personal, so I urge you to try different things and find what works for YOU, but if like me you feel depleted and hate any other hectic kind of workout then Melissa is your gal. It’s a mix of pilates and yoga and her own method: small controlled movements, and oh boy does it burn! Again not sponsored at all, but you can give her a go for 7 days for free (she now has an app! you can take her with you anywhere!) and see how you like it..! This is how I got started, and after 3 days I was hooked..! She also has amazing meditations, and variations of different sessions, targeting different areas, using your own body weight and/or props.
Walks : Some days, my only movement is walking with my dog twice a day, and that’s also amazing! Sometimes when it’s cold and grey, the last thing you want to do is go outside.. but fresh air, nature and some movement is literally THE recipe to get you through the winter. Having a dog helps.. it means that morning and afternoon, rain or shine I am outside for around an hour each time. I always come back feeling energised from it! Always!
If you don’t have a dog, just get off the tube a couple stops early and walk the rest. Take yourself on a morning walk to your favourite cafe before work. At lunchtime walk to your nearest park. It doesn’t matter where and how you do it, just get up and move. Ideally near some trees for added benefits ha! but walking around, especially if you have an office job, is SO important! Breathing fresh air, and getting active will help you boost your immune system, boost your energy, and boost your mood. It’s a win-win.
As my dad always says, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” SO grab your layers and GO!
Plants : Create your own jungle! Especially if you live in a city.. bringing greenery inside is a wonderful way to brighten up the grey winters. Over the past 2 years of living in our little flat we have acquired a lot of plants.. maybe a few too many, but they truly make our flat feel like a home! Ask at the plant shop, which plant would be happiest in your home.. there’s a plant for just about any spot.
Not only do they brighten up your home and make you happy, they also add oxygen back into your home, which is especially great when you’re on lock down! (even though I recommend you air out your home every day, I open up our bedroom window every morning for at least 15min! airing out your home is good for you AND for your plants..!)
Hear me out…! I know you’re thinking… wait a second T, you actually mean COLD showers?! Are you mad?!
I felt exactly like that just over a year ago.. I wouldn’t dream to have a shower that was anything but scorching hot.. I like my showers and baths on the hotter side.
Until M introduced me to this amazing man called Wim Hof aka the ‘ice man’ – I won’t go into too many details about his story and all of what he has accomplished, but look into him! We both signed up to his online course which we’re in the process of going through, and it’s life-changing! His method is a combination of breathing techniques, cold exposure and meditation. Which have been proven to help your body better deal with stress, alkalising the body to be able to fight off viruses, as well as triggering your immune system, reducing inflammation in the body, improving sleep, balancing hormones…
Just look into his method, there are plenty of videos out there, and more recently he appeared on episode 2 of the Goop Lab series on Netflix which is worth watching! whether or not you want to look into his method, one way to kickstart your ‘cold journey’ is gradually ending your showers on cold.
I started with about 30 seconds and increased it to about 2 min gradually over weeks! (aim for at least 1 min!) and when I mean cold, I mean the very end of cold.. turn that tap all the way! Breathe deeply through it, and watch yourself feel this incredible energy to start your day. I now can’t really start my day without it, I have actually gone back into the shower to have a cold rinse if I have forgotten..! Better than any coffee, it will literally boost you like nothing else. It has also proven to be incredible for my immune system, I barely got ill last winter, and this year got ill during the few weeks I stopped doing it. So try it for yourself and see what I mean..! (note : I like to shower in the morning and will always end on cold, but if I happen to have a shower in the evening, I don’t just because it’s energising and not what you need before bedtime! so I keep it warm and cosy up!)
This is it for now..! I hope these few tips help you navigate this season, which can be really hard for some of us. This is what I do from November to March, and it helps me a lot. It has helped me shift my perspective and really embrace Winters.. even if it’s not easy every day! I think it’s good to remember to be kind to yourself, take things slow in the winter. Allow your body to rest. Listen to your body, embrace the cosiness of it all! Let me know what your best tips are down in the comments!
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Tania Joy is a holistic health coach & mama-to-be. This is a destination for all things slow living, easy vegan recipes, natural beauty & inspiration to live a simpler, slower, more thoughtful life ☼