Connecting with the seasons is one super simple thing that we can all do to improve our health and wellbeing. Since we are a part of nature, living in harmony with nature truly is living in harmony with ourselves...even in winter.
In biology and medicine hormesis is defined as the adaptive response of cells and organisms to a moderate (usually intermittent) stress. Things like exercise, cold showers, and other brief periods of stress are shown to be protective, while prolonged periods end in damaged cells.
Being outdoors in the winter can be an incredibly invigorating experience, but only if properly dressed. We have evolved equipped to thrive with a little hormesis now and then and will find that enjoying time outdoors, even (or especially) in the cold, can help us to fight off the often drastic shift in mood that many people feel as we experience less sunlight this time of year. In my opinion, being all cooped up indoors should be reserved for dangerous weather conditions and illness. Being active outdoors in the natural light and the cold fresh air of the late winter sun can help connect us to our environment and benefits our overall wellbeing. Just 10-15 minutes in the cool air can greatly improve our outlook and leave us feeling refreshed and all 'aired-out'. Nature cures, if we let her.
In winter we may need a little extra help to stay healthy, so working with Nature's oldest healers in the form of herbs and oils is another simple way to enhance our wellness this time of year. Warming herbs and spices can be a great way to help us fight colds and germs as well as to warm our bodies both before and after spending time out in the crisp winter air. I like to increase my consumption of warming spices when cooking, and often drink herbal teas between meals. Some of my favorites this winter have been turmeric ginger tea and Haldi Ka Doodh (the traditional name for turmeric milk), lots and lots of cinnamon and turmeric in cooked dishes, lavender in the tub, oregano oil for most any 'first-aid' type application (think tea tree oil), and peppermint oil spritzed in the air when I need some uplifting energy.
Our seasonal winter diet consists of more warming foods that are spicy (hot sauces) and salty (krauts, pickles and kimchi). In addition to warming herbs and spices, in winter we aim for a more nourishing (and at times more concentrated) diet to help balance the weakening effects of the cold wet weather. I am much more comfortable with a few extra pounds this time of year and often create much richer meals using rendered animal fats, coconut, nuts and seeds along with greens and other vegetables. Having a warm breakfast like porridge or soup is my favorite way to start the day, plus leftovers are so easy! I often end my day with warm coconut or almond milk spiced with a little cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and honey (Haldi Ka Doodh). Rice is good in winter, as well as healthy fats from coconut, avocado, hemp, and olives. Raw honey is a superfood that helps to clear mucous because of it's heating and drying properties and can be an excellent tool for treating the symptoms of a cold. Raw honey is also great when used topically on pimples/cuts/scrapes/burns etc.. It helps to drink warm and spicy teas throughout the day and it is best to avoid cold foods, like ice cream or cucumbers until they are in season again. I find that heating the house with two wood stoves makes me really crave frozen desserts though, so I occasionally indulge by the fire...Eating well in late winter can really set us up for a sniffle free spring!
I tend to crave the lightness of spring a bit before my body is really ready and have suffered in years past because of my overzealousness, and because of the fact that I can buy snap peas and asparagus in February at any grocery store! Easing into spring at a similar pace to that of the Earth herself is a much better strategy.
Winter is the time for hibernation and cuddling if you ask me. I try to balance my time between walking in the woods alone in winter with time spent with people that I love. I find that a balanced mix of the two serves me best. Dan and I definitely enjoy more time just lounging around and allowing ourselves to 'just be', and we are both healthier because of it!
Relax, Eat Well and wear your scarf!
The Easiest "Soup"
My very modified version of Nana's Soup (or Nancy's Soup, depending on who you ask...)
- Ground Meat
- Carrots, Onion, Celery
- Cooked Beans
- Frozen Peas
- Frozen Green Beans
- Tomato Paste
Partially cook the fresh vegetables, spices and meat before adding the rest of the ingredients and bringing it to a boil. Simmer until everything is cooked through, 20 minutes tops. Garnish with avocado, nuts, cheese and/or sour cream. Even better as leftovers. Play with ratios and adjust it to however you like it!
Interested in learning more about what's going on in my braincase?