Asalaamu ‘alaikum sisters, and welcome to this article on winter wellness. December and the start of the new year present difficulties for many of us. We may experience challenging emotions at the advent of a new year that then become magnified because we may not be feeling at our best. To top it off, we may be trying to stick to our normal routine and find it a lot more challenging than we normally would. These challenges are often due, in part, to the shorter days and the cold weather. Winter months bring their blessings and their challenges with them, and if we can create a structure on how to manage our wellbeing, then we can make the best of the months ahead.
Alhamdulillah, each season brings its own blessings. So, let’s begin by reminding ourselves of some of the blessings of winter. The days are very short, and this is a natural sign for us to slow down; we see this in nature all around us. Animals hibernate, plants shed, lakes freeze and so on. Winter, though brutal on the surface, presents us with opportunities that we may not otherwise claim. It brings us the opportunity to rest and recharge our batteries. We know the importance of reflection within our deen, and winter provides us with an opportunity to take stock of the year gone by, to reflect on how we did, and to plan for where we would like to go. We can only reflect when we are not busy doing things; the cold ensures that we do less. Winter, then, is the perfect opportunity to think and plan for the year ahead. Keep this in mind as you plan your days, so that you allow some space for reflection as you look after your health and wellbeing. Let’s explore some practical ways in which we can really look after ourselves during the winter.
Tip 1: Utilise light
Light has a direct impact on our sense of wellbeing. Are you usually happier on brighter, sunnier days? Winter can make us feel depressed, simply due to the lack of sunlight. Our body clocks don’t function properly when we don’t experience a sharp difference between light and dark. We need both light and dark for our body clocks to function correctly. What often happens, is that we don’t get enough bright light, and we sit indoors with bright lights, well into the late evening. The key principle to follow is to expose yourself to more light, early on in the day and reduce exposure to light in the evening.
So, how do we make this happen? Firstly, we need to be flexible in the winter so we can make the most of the sun when it presents itself. One can’t really plan too far ahead for this, but when there’s sunshine, ensure that you can sit outside or go for a walk. Indeed, doing this whenever you can will help boost your energy levels and your mood. However, you may be located in an area that doesn’t experience much sunlight during winter. Do not despair; there is something you can do. There are a few different types of artificial lights that allow us to get the light we need. The idea with these special lights is that the brain registers the rays as daylight, and so our bodies respond as if we were getting natural light. Invest in one of these and ensure that you get daily exposure during the morning hours. These lights are normally known for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Another option is to get a light that simulates dawn. They allow us to experience waking up with a natural sunrise. Admittedly, these are not the same as being out in the sun, but they play an important role in allowing us to feel productive and well during those dark months. If you keep a very well-lit home at night, then reduce the lighting in the early evening so you can have a restful sleep. Reduce fluorescent lighting and opt for warmer, cosier lighting in the evening time.
Tip 2: Get more rest
It is probable that you lead a very busy life and have tons to get through in any given day. Do you notice your energy levels are lower during winter? This is nature’s cue telling us to rest. If you have a job, career and a family, it may be challenging to adjust your routine but it will make a real difference to how you feel day to day. Winter demands that you give your body and mind the required rest. Re-evaluate what you’ve got on your plate. Prioritise your to-do list, and focus on the most important things. There will be things that you could delegate to other people (especially in the home), so identify those and delegate them. Next, think about just one or two things that you can either do less frequently or omit altogether, until the spring. If you find that you’re not quite sure or you’re unwilling to let things go, then just try something for 3 days, or a week, and see how you feel. If you feel that it needs to be added back into the routine, then do so, but then choose something else to let go of. Remember, this rest will really support you when it comes to revving up the engines again in the spring.
Tip 3: Create an exercise and detox combination
Winter does require rest; however, exercise is something you shouldn’t compromise at any time during the year. Keeping active not only helps your body to function better overall, but it has the special benefit of keeping the blues away. Not to mention that exercising in colder weather means that you will burn more kilojoules as well. Do keep the basics in mind, such as good stretching and drinking plenty of water. In addition to the exercise, plan a detox regimen towards the beginning of spring. This is a good time to remove toxins from the system. Consider taking Epsom salt baths, body brushing or bouncing on a trampoline. Whichever detox methods you use, make sure you do some research before you start, and begin slowly so that your body can cope with the de-toxing effects as it energises itself towards spring.
Tip 4: Adjust your eating patterns
It’s amazing how we can now get a variety of foods flown in from all over the world, meaning that we can eat what we like, rather than the season dictating what we eat. This may not be the best nutrition for our bodies. If we reflect, we notice that Allah I provides us with different fruits and vegetables according to the seasons. Eating seasonal produce will mean that we are giving our bodies the nutrients they require according to the time of year. Experiment with some new foods and try out new recipes, including seasonal produce at least 2-3 times a week. Also, eat an earlier, lighter meal in the evening and have your heavier meals in the morning and lunchtime.
Tip 5: Top up on Vitamin D
It is often challenging to provide our bodies with the nutrients needed, and one particular vitamin is often neglected. Vitamin D is called a vitamin but it actually works like a hormone, and so, plays a key role in several functions within the body. Having low vitamin D levels will affect our energy levels and our mood, along with various other things. Vitamin D is produced in the skin when we expose ourselves to direct sunlight. So if we don’t get the required exposure for whatever reason, our vitamin D levels are bound to be low. Ensure that you take a vitamin D supplement. If you suspect that your levels may be low, then do go to a doctor and get it tested. Wherever you feel you are at present, vitamin D supplementation will be useful when sunlight is short.
Life coach and natural nutritionist, Sayeda Habib reflects on reaping the fruits of winter.
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Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com