For those in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is coming…
As the days become shorter and the temperature cooler, I’ve chatted with a number of people who are really freaking out about the arrival of winter. Where we live in Dunedin, New Zealand, although the winters here are filled with stunning days, the air crisp and the sunlit sky a muted blue, they can be long and bleak, peppered with periods of sleet, hail and horizontal rain; and for many of us, just a bit depressing. Even the hope of spring and the arrival of the sweet scent of blossom towards the end of winter isn’t enough to be released from the winter slump.
I’m feeling very grateful this year as I’m evading the winter and heading to Europe for 4-5 months on a cultural sabbatical; to reinvigorate and replenish my world. I’ve resigned from my corporate job, which has been highly liberating in itself, and I’m flitting off in a few days. I can already taste the freedom.
Anyhow; after my fair share of winters in Dunedin, I’ve learnt how to make the most of them and here are a few of my hot tips for surviving winter:
There needs to be light at the end of a tunnel in the form of a tropical break, or at the very least, going somewhere warmer than where you live. Heading away to a Pacific island, Bali, Byron Bay or even the Bay of Islands will do you the world of good. Planning your trip for later in the winter or early spring is best. So much of the experience is the anticipation of going on the trip, so this will help you to remain positive through the darker days. Remember, eyes on the prize. And repeat.
2) Vitamin D
Go to your doctor and get a prescription for Vitamin D. There is a direct link to the amount of vitamin D in your body and your mood. One theory is that it helps to create positive feelings by altering dopamine levels in the brain. When you’re not getting enough sunlight in winter, your body doesn’t naturally produce vitamin D, so getting a prescription will make a big difference to your temperament. If you can, beg for a 6 month supply (normally doctors will only prescribe a 3 month supply) as in actual fact, winters in the south of the south do last that long.
Heading to the pool transformed my winter last year. Changing into my swimmers, diving into the pool and doing laps or aqua jogging was invigorating, provided a really good workout and gave me a wee taste of summer a few times a week. The hot spa afterwards was the icing on the cake and I always left the pool feeling energised, toasty warm and pretty damn good about myself and the world.
The benefits of meditation are aplenty and are especially helpful in winter, as a regular practice increases happiness and immune health. Studies have shown that there is a boost in brain signaling in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, which is predominantly responsible for positive emotions; while there is a reduction in activity in the right side, responsible for negative emotions. Meditation has a positive effect on your immune system by boosting antibodies and slowing down the reduction of the CD-4 cell count, which are immune cells associated with keeping the virus from multiplying. There are numerous free meditations online so try out a few and do whichever one suits you best.
5) Get outside
Even if it is bitter, get out there. Staying indoors, not moving your body and making yourself feel (momentarily) better with self-saucing chocolate puddings and lashings of cream may lead you on a downward spiral of downheartedness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of a hearty dessert, but feeling frumpy in winter may not give you much motivation to leave the house. Rug up, connect with nature (the Ross Creek waterfall is a personal fave) and enjoy the serenity.
6) Keep up the good work
Continuing with your regular exercise regime and eating a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and other wholefoods will assist you to feel good during the winter. During the colder months, your body will naturally crave heavier, more calorific foods so it’s important that you balance that with your movement of choice. Even if you just can’t leave the house, do a yoga or HIIT (high intensity interval training) class at home. Again, there are many options online. You’ll also feel that much better on the beach in your bathers when your holiday comes around.