How To Get A Winter Glow
During dark and cold winter evenings thoughts of evening hibernation in front of the telly gorging on large wedges of chocolate cake become increasingly tempting. Even the most fashionable types can find themselves lusting after thermal long johns, and some people are only too willing to undertake a brisk walk, if it’s in the direction of the pub.
But take heart, according to the experts there are zestful ways to bring a bright summer glow to winter… and much of this feelgood advice will give you a boost at any time of year.
GET SENSUAL Instead of rebelling against winter, embrace the warming, spicy tastes and scents you associate with the season and then use them to give yourself a boost.
“Add ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg to food,” advises medical herbalist Aine-Marie Reilly. “Food in winter can be stodgy and ginger and cinnamon are warming spices that help digestion. They are also good anti-viral herbs and help circulation because they warm you up.” You can also make your own zesty drink by adding boiling water to freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice and adding cinnamon or cloves and honey.
In winter we can become more aware of creaky joints and pains that were less noticeable in the summer warmth. Get sensual and pamper yourself by buying a good base cream that is not too fragranced. “Add some drops of frankincense or clove aromatherapy oil to it,” says Aine-Marie.
You can then help soothe the aches by massaging it into your skin. Adding a few drops of these oils to a bath will also lift your spirits. But if you are expecting a baby make sure to get expert advice before using aromatherapy oils or herbs. Some of them should not be used during pregnancy. To learn more about healing herbs, look up the medical herbalists website, www.iimh.org
WINTER FEELGOOD FOODS: Goldilocks, it seems, was on to something when she sampled the three bears’ porridge. “Oats are very good for the nervous system and have an antidepressant effect if you eat enough of them,” says Aine-Marie.
One reason oats can help to support the nervous system and lift the mood is that they are rich in B vitamins. Having a nice hot bowl of porridge is a great way to start a winter morning. If you add some linseed and flax seed oil or hemp oil to it, you will get lots of Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils which help hair, skin, nails and your nervous system and are also good for stress. The oils in fish such as mackerel have the same effect. If you don’t fancy making porridge, try tasty oatcakes.
Eating root vegetables such as pumpkins, parsnips and turnips feels natural during the colder months and can add to your feelgood factor. Making your own soups is very cosy. Don’t skimp on onions and garlic.
GET THAT FRIDAY FEELING Stop doing things that you really dislike if that is an option. There’s no need to feel guilty, according to top life coach Fiona Harrold. “When we are choosing what to change in our lives the first thing to do is to make a list of what is not working and what we may be able to let go of,” she says. “That way you make space for new things.
“Write a list called ‘What I Don’t Want In My Life’ and give yourself permission to be truthful. Then look at the list again and see what you can feasibly let go of and what will take more thought and creativity.”
Ask yourself what is the one thing that would make the biggest change to your life if you stopped doing it. After you’ve made your list, work through it and start off by implementing what can be done easily.
So if you hate going to the gym, stop going there and take exercise another way, says Fiona. Bopping around the sitting-room to Dancing Queen can brighten the soggiest of evenings.
LIGHTEN UP We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight – so make sure to get out and about at some stage during daylight. Even on an overcast afternoon your body will be absorbing those therapeutic rays. People who are particularly sensitive to lack of sunlight may consider buying a specially designed light box to boost their supply of light.
THERAPEUTIC ESCAPISM: Visualisation is a powerful way to lift one’s mood. For example, imagining yourself poolside in some palm-fringed luxury Mediterranean resort for five minutes will give you a sunshine break for free. Films set in sun-soaked climes will also evoke summery feelings.
Curling up with a good book will help you to forget about winter, and much more besides.
SHARPEN UP Keeping your brain sharp is good for your mood, according to Dr Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, and it is also good for “general well-being”. Dr Robertson, author of Stay Sharp with the Mind Doctor, believes exercise is the key to banishing the winter blues.
“Aerobic exercise improves your memory and brain function, both in the short and long term,” he says. “So going for a brisk walk, a run or to the gym is one of the best things you can do to feel sharp and good. Exercise also lifts your mood.”
A healthy diet has a similar effect on the brain. “It literally feeds and strengthens your brain connections. Fish, and brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are superb for your brain. Conversely, while the odd fry-up may cheer you up, if you eat too much fatty food it can dull you mentally.”
Dr Robertson also suggests learning a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, calligraphy or Pilates. New skills are, apparently, “exceptionally good for your brain”.
Perhaps learning how to bake a very nice cake could be included in this self-improvement… so here is a Nigel Slater recipe I’m very fond of! cake