Give your well­be­ing a pre-Christ­mas boost

Don’t wait un­til Jan­uary... the best time to over­haul your health habits is now. LIZ CON­NOR gets some tips from the ex­perts

The Chronicle - - Family Health -

WE can all find the mo­ti­va­tion to throw on our train­ers when the pave­ments are hot, eat healthily when the days are long and med­i­tate our way to holis­tic bliss when a whole morn­ing can be spent sim­ply soak­ing up the rays in a lo­cal park. But when it’s dark and cold, healthy habits can eas­ily go astray.

It’s tempt­ing to spend all win­ter hi­ber­nat­ing on the sofa with a glass of wine, your only ex­er­cise be­ing the slow shuf­fle to and from the fridge in be­tween Net­flix episodes. This usu­ally comes to a very painful head in Jan­uary, when you’re hun­gover, have a to-do list the size of China back at work – and are faced with the prospect of over­haul­ing your bad habits, while bat­tling some se­ri­ous post-party-sea­son blues.

That’s why win­ter is se­cretly the best time to get your health mojo back. You’ll keep the in­dul­gences (and the fi­nan­cial bur­den) of the fes­tive pe­riod in check, and in do­ing so, get into good shape for when New Year rolls around.

Here, three health and wellness ex­perts re­veal their top tips for keep­ing mo­ti­vated and giv­ing your­self a win­ter health re­boot.

1. HAVE A PRE-SPRING CLEAN

MANY of us tra­di­tion­ally cel­e­brate the end of win­ter with a good old spring clean, but why not start as you mean to to go by do­ing the same as win­ter looms?

“Clear out your cup­boards and stock up on the foods that will help to pro­mote win­ter wellness and give you the in­gre­di­ents to cre­ate de­li­cious dishes that will sup­port your body’s health as the tem­per­a­ture drops,” says nu­tri­tion­ist Rob Hob­son.

“Nour­ish­ing grains such as bar­ley and spelt, as well as pulses and beans, lend them­selves per­fectly to healthy win­ter dishes such as stews, casseroles, soups and warm sal­ads.”

Spices such as cin­na­mon, smoked pa­prika, turmeric, raw ca­cao and chilli pow­der can also of­fer warm­ing flavours that help nur­ture our sense of win­ter well­be­ing, he adds.

2. KEEP A GRAT­I­TUDE DIARY

WE’VE all heard that In­sta­gram can be toxic for our men­tal health, con­tribut­ing to feel­ings of anx­i­ety, self-doubt and body-im­age wor­ries, but there are ways you can use the so­cial net­work as a force for good.

“Use In­sta­gram as a grat­i­tude diary by tak­ing a photo ev­ery day of some­thing you feel grate­ful for,” says health psy­chol­o­gist Dr Meg Aroll. “Stud­ies have shown that ap­pre­ci­at­ing and not­ing down what we are thank­ful for en­hances our over­all sat­is­fac­tion with life and lifts mood, lead­ing us to feel more re­freshed in the morn­ings and in­creas­ing the amount of time we spend ex­er­cis­ing.

“If you’re not a fan of so­cial me­dia, you could sim­ply write down three things each morn­ing that you feel grate­ful for.”

3. TRY WIN­TER SPORTS

WIN­TER brings with it a whole raft of brilliant sea­sonal sports to keep you ac­tive.

Dr Aroll sug­gests find­ing a new hobby that cel­e­brates win­ter, such as ice skat­ing, snow kit­ing or in­door ski­ing.

“You could also con­sider do­ing some­thing for the com­mu­nity, like vol­un­teer­ing. Noth­ing lifts the spir­its more than help­ing oth­ers in need, and Christ­mas can be a sig­nif­i­cantly lonely time of year for many peo­ple.”

4. EAT FOR THE WEATHER

WHEN the weather’s gloomy and you’re feel­ing de­pressed, it can can im­pact on your ap­petite and food choices, which may leave you lack­ing in es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents.

It’s also a com­mon sea­son for over­load­ing on stodgy and sug­ary foods, such as takeaways and desserts, for com­fort.

“Food is not a cure, but mak­ing healthy choices can help and good nu­tri­tion is proven to ben­e­fit men­tal health,” says Rob. “Make sure you eat reg­u­larly and fol­low a low GI diet by in­clud­ing pro­tein, healthy fats and plenty of veg­gies at ev­ery meal, to help bal­ance blood sugar lev­els and keep you feel­ing full and en­er­gised.”

He sug­gests top­ping up on B vi­ta­mins with whole­grains, oily fish, eggs, and dark green leafy veg­eta­bles that help to con­vert food into en­ergy, and sup­port a healthy ner­vous sys­tem.

A fi­nal tip? Take a daily vi­ta­min D3 sup­ple­ment to keep your spir­its high.

“Low vi­ta­min D lev­els are com­mon dur­ing win­ter months, as we strug­gle to get what we need from the lack of sun­shine, and this can in­crease your risk of low mood and sea­sonal de­pres­sion,” Rob notes. “Try to eat plenty of tryp­to­phan-rich foods, such as oats, ba­nanas, tur­key and tofu. The amino-acid tryp­to­phan is con­verted in the brain to the ‘feel-good’ hor­mone sero­tonin.”

5. TRY GET­TING OUT FOR A RUN

RUN­NING in win­ter can in­stantly put you into a cheery mood, thanks to a quick hit of feel­good hor­mones. “Snug­gling on the sofa might sound ap­peal­ing, but don’t for­get that win­ter is a great time of year to get out­side, wrap up warm and en­joy the fresh air,” says or­thopaedic sur­geon Dr Dan Robertson. “In fact, a brac­ing win­ter breeze can ac­tu­ally be quite in­vig­o­rat­ing and prompt your body to re­lease en­dor­phins, which re­duce your pain re­sponse and will put you in a great mood.” If all else fails, you can use the thought of a nat­u­ral shot of eu­pho­ria as your mo­ti­va­tion to crawl out from un­der the du­vet when it’s blow­ing a gale out­side. Take that, Win­ter!

Eat plenty of veg­eta­bles and pulses Run­ning re­leases en­dor­phins

Try vol­un­teer­ing

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