When I listen to people in my community talk about their attitude towards winter they’ll often describe struggle due to the lack of sun and grey days that leads them to feeling physically dull, emotionally down yet restless – sprinkled with a dusting of apathy.
IT’S ALL PART OF NATURE’S INTELLIGENT DESIGN
The darker days of winter influence the biological workings of your body so that it can better persevere the extremes of the season. Over thousands of years the human body has adapted in order to survive the harsh weather and food scarcity.
The seasonal routines of the plants offer us foods that are designed to assist; fall and winter foods provide the perfect nutrients to boost our immune system as well as increase our bodily fat stores in a healthful way.
In winter your digestive enzymes and metabolism are both increased so that you can digest the seasonally abundant foods of autumn that also store well during winter. Carrots, beets, roots, creamy winter squashes, nuts, seeds, as well as animal bones, fats and meats contain ample amounts of the nutrients needed to sustain your health.
During the cold and darker days of the winter season our bodies adapt by boosting our nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system (that which is responsible for the fight or flight response) is activated to assist with the work of staying warm. The parasympathetic nervous system (that which is responsible for our rest and digest responses) is also increased in order to help us preserve more calories, rest more and to digest the more complex foods that are readily available.
HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET DANGEROUS
In this day and age with all the luxuries of modern western living + a more sedentary lifestyle + the abundance of holiday food-activity-and-drink AND the increase in your parasympathetic nervous system (translate: I want to sleep-in and lay on the couch with a good book) you can see how there’s a setup to pack on more than enough fat to keep you warm.
Holiday + end of the year to-do lists can add a sense of mounting responsibility and busyness – WARNING – this plus the already increased sympathetic nervous system may lead to an overwhelmed stress mess.
So when you combine the human biological design with our cultural traditions and tendencies one can understand how the probability to sink into a winter slump is somewhat high.
NOT TO WORRY; WITH A PLAN YOU’VE GOT THIS
Because of the way that the cards are stacked you’ll be helping yourself sail through the season with robust vitality and immune system if you choose: attitudes, company and activities that create a sense of ease and calm.
To manage stress it’s important that each of us get clear about what we need in order to unwind and then be innovative in your life so that you can do those things.
Some ideas to keep you moving & rebuilding in calming ways:
- walks with good company
- yoga & breathing practices
- dance – alone or with others
- movement breaks throughout the day
- time outside everyday
- sleep more in the winter aim to get 8+ hours of deep restful sleep
In terms of winter eating you can boost your digestive function and satiety after meals by choosing not just WHAT you eat but also WHEN and HOW you eat so that you are supporting your digestive fire to stay strong rather than causing it to get bogged down resulting in: gas, bloating, mucus and snot (eewwhh but true).
Some ideas for food and optimizing digestion during winter:
- eat cooked and warm foods this time of year
- allow enough space between your meals so you can feel your hunger
- don’t eat late at night
- pause and take a breath before you begin your meal
- when you’re eating just eat – multitasking while eating compromises your digestion
- enjoy the sweet-rich-and-fat-filled-foods provided by nature first and perhaps the holiday candy bowls, eggnog, hot toddies, family feasts and cookie exchanges won’t call your name in such a persistently tempting fashion.
OVER TO YOU
Your body is indeed influenced by the natural cycles of the seasons; you can assist the process by aligning your routines and choices to support what’s going on in your physiology rather than resist it. Essentials for winter self-care include calming, de-stressing and nurturing your digestive fire.