What’s the hardest part of winter for you? Is it the shorter days, frigid temperatures, or painful joints?
Does your body react to cold weather by tightening and tensing up? We must admit, it’s hard to relax when you are bracing against the wind, walking or driving on snowy and icy roads. So the key is to be extra good to yourself and to create more opportunities to relax your body and mind, especially during these harsh winter months.
While some people love the change of seasons, the colder months can be challenging for a lot of us. Practical self-care strategies will get us through the colder months and can make all the difference in how well we feel as the winter continues. Whether you manage seasonal depression, stress, joint, and muscle pains, self-care is key to any effective strategy for making the most of the cold-weather months.
It all begins with our immune system
The immune system is our defense against infections and to helps protect the body and to maintain our overall health. Keeping our immune system healthy and in top performance – especially – during winter is one of the most critical defenses against getting sick. Massage therapy increases the activity of white blood cells that protects us from viruses and bacteria. Almost every massage modality helps to increase lymph flow, which has an integral role in our immune functions as it carries infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. Receiving regular massage also reduces cortisol, which linked with suppressed immune function, and inflammation.
When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. Studies have shown that people who get regular massages spend more time in deep sleep, which is the essential restorative stage of the sleep cycle. When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert. Sleep affects how we look, feel, and perform. Quantity and quality are both essential factors to function at our best. If we don’t get enough sleep, the body doesn’t have time to repair our muscles, memory, and to release the hormones that regulate growth and appetite. When our quality of sleep is compromised, we wake up less prepared to concentrate, to engage fully in school, and in our activities. Even if you do come down with a case of a seasonal cold, you’ll be able to bounce back much faster if your body is well-rested.
According to research from Cedars-Sinai, a group of participants who received massage regularly experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from diseases. What were these changes, you may ask?
Better Fluidity and Function:
In cold weather, muscles are more prone to cramp and strain. Stiff muscles are more tight, less fluid, and more susceptible to injuries. Muscle soreness – from engaging in winter sports or even just from shoveling – can significantly benefit from massage that helps to soothe and loosen tight muscles and prevent future injury too.
Massage Promotes Good Health From the Inside Out:
If your hands and feet are often cold, you may need a circulatory boost. Massage improves blood flow as it warms the body by delivering more oxygen to muscles, joints, and organs. This naturally lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, improves blood circulation, and improves overall bodily functions.
Massage Melts Away the Winter Blues
About 15% of Canadians suffer from the ( SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months. Usually, symptoms are most severe from November through April as the lack of sunlight can negatively affect mood and energy levels. SAD is a type of depression with symptoms of; sadness, irritability, lack of energy, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping, feeling hopeless, withdrawn or isolated, struggling to focus, and even having suicidal thoughts.
When you can’t get enough sun every day, light therapy could be very helpful in managing this seasonal disorder. In recent years, light therapy – commonly called “SAD lamps” became a popular choice for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be particularly helpful in regulating the release of melatonin, to reduce fatigue and prevent winter depression.
A good SAD lamp has a surface, about 12 by 18 inches. It also needs a brightness level of 10,000 lux and labeled UV-Free. For best results, use it every day, first thing in the morning for about 20 to 30 minutes positioned about 14 inches away from the face, to fully benefit from its cumulative effects. The light needs to enter both your eyes, so placing the light in the correct direction is essential. It’s fine to multitask as you don’t need to look directly into the light source.
Shaking Off the Winter Blues with Aromatherapy
One easy way to add extra TLC and joy to our lives, especially during the winter months, is with the use of essential oils for aromatherapy. Essential oils influence the area in the brain that is responsible for controlling our moods and the body’s circadian rhythm. Carefully chosen essential oils can provide noticeable changes on all levels to help us feel better. When using essential oils for the first time, do a skin test to be sure you don’t have an allergic or adverse reaction to them.
Always dilute 3-5 drops of essential oil with an ounce of carrier oil. Examples; coconut oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, grape seed oil. By gently massaging a few drops of diluted oil on pulse points — any time of the day, but especially when you feel a dip in your mood or energy level— you’ll see how effective they are. In general:
Citrus oils – have a cheering and uplifting and energizing action.
Floral oils – help to fight feelings of sadness, melancholy, and guilt.
Essential oils can be diffused in a diffuser, used in a bath 4 – 8 drops in total or in a carrier oil for a healing massage. Essential oils are a perfect way to help combat winter blues and to re-energize, especially when combined with other conventional treatments.
Here are a few other essential oils to consider.
Essential oils to boost energy levels;
Essential oils to help balance and strengthen emotions;
Have fun discovering new scents that will help you energize body and mind!
Other Self-care Strategies to Help You Get Through the Winter Months
As we know, countries like Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden considered being some of the happiest people on earth. The one thing they all have in common is the popularity of using saunas regularly. Saunas offer several health benefits, such as flushing out toxins, better sleep, improved cardiovascular performance, and it may also help relieve arthritic pain.
Infrared saunas also help to relax sore and tired muscles. It will warm you up like nothing else and forces the body to burn calories too. As nordic spas became quite popular here in Quebec, you have a wide range of options to find the closest to you.
~ If you are not claustrophobic, floatation therapy or floating bath can be a great part of your winter self-care strategy as it can promote deep relaxation, pain relief, improved sleep, and an overall feeling of wellness.
~ If you like the outdoors and you are open to discovering which type of winter sport you enjoy, it can make the whole season much more fun, uplifting and adventurous. ~ Reenergize yourself with visualization exercises. Meditation and guided visualization are a powerful way to ease cold-weather-induced stress.
~ Connecting through creating. Creating art with your loved ones or with your community decreases the feeling of loneliness and can improve overall sense of wellbeing. Searching online or in your local paper or library, joining a craft, or another activity group can also help connect you with your community to create not only pieces of art but new friendships as well.
Exercises That Melt Away the Winter Blues
Several studies have shown that exercise improves mood, sleep, and reduces stress. One hour of aerobic exercise outside, even if it’s cloudy, had the same benefits as 2.5 hours of light treatment indoors. Aerobic exercise can help to get rid of the feelings of depression. Brisk walking, jogging, skiing, sledding, are proven to help winter blues sufferers to feel better.
Daily exercises to help you feel happier this winter:
1. Running or walking
Running or walking is one of the best ways to promote positive mental health and increase your body’s energy level. Don’t let the winter blues bring you down. Try to spend more time outside.
A great way to overcome the winter blues is to take up an activity that is not outside. By swimming in an indoor pool, you’re working your whole body, which will increase your energy and lifts your mood. After your swimming session, head to the jacuzzi or a steaming sauna that reaches deep into your muscles to heal your whole body and making the weather more bearable.
Dancing improves brain functions, forces concentration, and promotes cognitive learning. By joining a class, you’re also getting out of your home and meeting new people. Dancing in social settings can release endorphins that reduce stress, pain, and the winter blues.
Embracing the change in temperature can do wonders for your mood. So, take advantage of the snow and head to the slopes. Skiing will make you feel as though you conquered the season and are proven to reduce chemicals that fuel symptoms of depression. There is no need to commit to purchasing all the equipment. Simple rent it for a day or a season.
Almost any exercise will positively influence anxiety and negative thoughts. Activities get you out of the house, and it takes your mind off of negative thoughts. Exercise gives you energy. Not just when you’re working out, but regular exercise strengthens muscles, increases endurance, confidence, and self-esteem.
Exercising doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but regular exercise will increase brain function and have positive effects on mood, sleep, and energy levels. It’s been proven that exercise releases endorphins and reduces stress to combat the feeling of the blues in the winter.
Food and Mood
Many people who suffer from the winter blues tend to crave junk food and unhealthy snacks, which increases further cravings for other sugary foods, which creates a vicious energy-draining cycle. Sugary and starchy foods are effective in increasing energy levels temporarily in the brain, but in the long term, it will zap your energy levels rather than boost them. This vicious cycle over time can result in weight gain that can lower self-esteem and worsen depression. A better strategy would be to eat simple and complex carbohydrates, for example – pasta, rice, and fruits.
Healthy Food Choices
Oats – aren’t just a cozy way to start your winter morning. They can also help to regulate mood, and their low glycemic index keeps blood sugar levels stable, which helps to avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks. Choose large-flake or steel-cut oats for the most nutritious option.
Lentils – help to boost the brain’s serotonin levels, your feel-good neurotransmitter. Lentils are one of the most nutritious, delicious, and versatile plant-based food for a truly happy meal.
Turkey – is known to induce sleepiness, which your body uses to make serotonin, to boost your mood. This versatile protein can be enjoyed on a casual winter weeknight pasta.
Hot dark chocolate cocoa – is not only fantastic to warm your hands, but it will boost your mood, too! A cup of hot cocoa or a piece of dark chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins for a sunnier outlook and a happier attitude.
Quinoa – is one of the world’s most popular healthy food. This grain has one of the highest protein content; it’s gluten-free and contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for an even more mood-boosting action.
Fermented foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, plain yogurt, and kefir are nourishing the gut, which is the home of the feel-good serotonin production.
Banana – is actual mood-boosting food. They are complex carbohydrates and an excellent source of vitamin B6, that aids to convert to serotonin, your stay-happy neurotransmitter. Enjoy a double-dose of happiness with a cocoa banana oatmeal muffin!
Wild salmon – is an excellent source of omega-3s, healthy fats that support proper brain chemistry for happiness, no matter the time of year. Omega-3-rich fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna once or twice a week can help iron out unhappiness and ease symptoms of depression.
Walnuts – are also a great source of omega-3s, just like salmon. It is a healthy snack that can be added to your breakfast oatmeal, salads, stuffing, and plates of pasta, for a brain and mood-boosting nutrition.
Avocados – are rich in B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, a nutrient needed for the production of serotonin. If you’re feeling sad, anxious, or fearful, avocado could help to put you in a better mood. Avocados are a good source of folate, and research suggests that folate deficiency may be behind irrational fears and anxiety.
Their high fiber content also helps to keep a balanced blood sugar level, keeping our hunger and mood stable.
Cheese – rich in calcium, and as surprising as it may sound, has a role in decreasing stress and anxiety and improve mood. A small amount of cheese can be a healthy part of a balanced diet.
Beans – are a source of complex carbohydrates, loaded with B vitamins and protein to stabilize blood sugar and mood while regulating hunger. Enjoy a hearty bowl of white bean soup with rosemary and olive oil for its heartwarming and soul-lifting benefit.
How In-Home Massage Can Help During Wintertime
Wintertime is the most appreciated season of having the convenience of receiving your massage at home. It offers a potent defense to stay healthy during wintertime, a season when our immune system needs all the support it can get. Our bodies respond to cold weather by tensing up, so it’s essential to be extra good to yourself and to create more opportunities to relax your body and mind.
Massage is one of the best ways to combat the adverse effects of the winter blues. In addition to improving overall relaxation and wellbeing, massage relieves stress, enhances mood, and improves sleep. In-Home massage provides a stress-free and convenient solution for the relief of physical and mental tension that the winter weather can bring about. Especially this time of year, the option of having your massage in the comfort of your home will free you up from the additional stress of traveling to and from your appointment.
You can simply relax and enjoy the soothing, rejuvenating massage that will relieve muscle tension, reduce chronic pain, calm nervousness, and prepare you for a more restful sleep. All your specific needs are addressed by your massage therapist, who will be able to provide the massage modality that will be of most significant benefit to you.
Making In-home massage a part of your immune-boosting and stress-fighting arsenal will help you create the more balance and focus needed to navigate through the winter stressors for your busy lifestyle. By giving yourself the ultimate treat, that benefits your physical and mental health this winter will keep you healthier and happier. There’s no need to go anywhere as our certified massage therapists will come to you, bringing everything necessary for your professional in-home massage experience.
Vivanti has been a leading provider of In-home massage for over 20 years. Having a massage at home is a great way to reconnect and reward yourself and your partner. Home massage is a mini-vacation for your body and mind without the stress and inconvenience of traveling.
Review our services and packages today to find the type of relaxation that’s right for you.