If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you feel you need some assistance in getting through Winter without losing your mind. For many years, mostly throughout my twenties, I allowed myself to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder aka S.A.D.
For starters, I loathe feeling cold. Cold lingers deep within my bones, despite layers of clothing. My toes go numb, I shiver and shake so much that I get stomach pains and tense muscles, causing my mood to decline sharply. Then there’s the dark. I worship the sun. The sun keeps us alive, and it keeps me warm, and it lights things up, and makes me happy. But here in Pennsylvania, the sun doesn’t make too many appearances during the winter.
Since entering my thirties, my overall life and attitude towards it has exponentially improved, allowing it to become a little easier to handle the dark, cold days of winter- but I still require a little help.
Back in mid-November, I mentioned on Instagram that I had chosen a theme for myself this winter (I told you I love themes!) If you follow me on Pinterest (@vitamagicaalchemy), you know I’ve had a board dedicated to my Winter theme since mid fall. My personal theme is Luscious Luxury, or Lush Lux for short. If it’s going to be gray and ugly outside, I want to be surrounded by beauty, and feel as luxurious and comfortable indoors as possible…since I don’t plan on leaving the house too often. Creating your own personal theme may be beneficial to you as well. Start by deciding how to want to feel, then go from there. Maybe you want to spend the season catching up on reading, maybe you want to focus on a hobby or start a new one, or maybe you want to spend the next couple of months pretending that you are living in a tropical paradise. Whatever it takes to get your focus off of feeling blah, and put the focus on feeling fulfilled.
Here is some inspiration to get you started!
Turn your bathroom into a spa:
Clear the clutter. Get rid of old or almost empty products, give away products you don’t use, disguise items in stylish containers, create extra storage if you need it, and hide the rest.
Hang eucalyptus leaves from your shower head. The steam will extract the essential oils, allowing you to inhale it’s aroma, clearing your airways and your mental fog. This is great for cold & flu season!
1. Get a filter for your sink and shower head to filter out chlorine, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals from your water. Remember, if it goes down the drain, it goes into your water supply!
2. Ditch the chemicals. It’s 2019, if you still aren’t aware of the dangers of the chemicals in your products, such as fluoride, aluminum, parabens, sulfates, artificial colors and fragrances, etc., then I sincerely urge you to visit www.ewg.org. It’s a one stop site for all things environmental and health related!
3. Upgrade your towels. They can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and if they’re not soft, what’s the point?! Tip: If you have a radiator in the bathroom like I do, use it as a towel warmer!
4. Make an herbal compress
5. Dry brush! Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like… brushing the skin in a particular pattern with a dry brush, usually before showering.
It is claimed that brushing the skin regularly helps stimulate the normal lymph flow within the body and helps the body detoxify itself naturally. The lymphatic system is a major part of the body’s immune system, and is made up of organs and lymph nodes, ducts, and vessels that transport lymph throughout the body. Many of these lymph vessels run just below the skin. It also helps loosen and remove dead skin cells, and naturally exfoliates skin increasing circulation. It also makes my skin softer and smoother!
-Starting at the feet, I brush the bottoms of my feet and up my legs in long, smooth strokes. I typically brush each section of skin 10 times. For lymph flow, I always brush toward the heart/chest area where the lymph system drains.
-As a good rule of thumb, always brush toward the center of the body.
-Repeat the same process with the arms, starting with the palms of the hands and brushing up the arm toward the heart. Again, I brush each section of skin 10 times.
-On the stomach and armpits, brush in a circular clockwise motion.
-I then repeat the process on my abdomen and back, and then switch to my face with the more delicate brush.
Add flowers or plants to your decor
Eat & Drink Your Way to Health:
For many of us, colder temperatures and holiday events means an increase in our food intake. This is natural, since biologically cold weather stimulates our survival instincts, but how many of us are making healthy choices and sticking to seasonal produce? Not me! I’ve been guilty of indulging in fried vegan snacks lately. Here are some ways to indulge our cravings, while nourishing our mind, body and souls.
Foundation- Dark, leafy greens, winter squash, potatoes, beets, cauliflower (especially purple), parsnips, persimmons, radishes, turnips,
Sweet treats- pomegranates, citrus fruits, pears, dates, cacao
For hydration/dry skin- Avocado, coconut, sweet potatoes, carrots, olive oil, nuts & seeds, tomatoes, sea buckthorn
Vitamins & Supplements- A, C, D, E and Bs, Echinacea, elderberry, collagen powder, cacao, turmeric, probiotics, Oscillococcinum (essentially a homeopathic flu shot!)
For the Winter Blues- St. John’s Wort, Vitamin D, magnesium, iron, “adaptogenic” herbs such as Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Maca., ginseng, rosemary, aloe vera, holy basil and milk thistle to name a few
Winter Drink Recipes:
Golden Milk- This drink has been revered since ancient times for it’s healing benefits. By now we all know Turmeric is great for inflammation, but it also helps boosts the immune system, supports digestive and liver functions, and may offer protection from certain cancers. This drink maximizes the antioxidant power of the turmeric. Here’s a recipe I wrote for a blog back in 2014…
Ingredients: (adjust according to taste)
3 cups of non-dairy milk
1 1/2 teaspoons tumeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoons of cardamom powder, cayenne powder, coriander powder, ground cloves
1 whole stick of cinnamon
Optional: sweetener of choice to take some of the heat off
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and slowly heat, not quite bringing it to a boil, whisking frequently. Add sweetener to taste.
Favorite Fair Trade Cocoa Companies
Did you know that certain products should always be bought fair trade, such as coffee, tea and chocolate? The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 250 million child slaves working to produce these items. As you might imagine, forced laborers are exploited for their work, forced to work long hours with little or no pay and have little rights.
When we choose to buy Fair Trade products, we are casting a vote for the ethical treatment of the laborers around the world who are responsible for the food we eat. Fair Trade certification means not only that workers are paid fairly but also those farmers have safe and environmentally-friendly working conditions. We have the power to vote with our dollar! Here is a great site to help you find conflict free products
Cosmic Cocoa by Moon Juice*
Equal Exchange Organic Dark Hot Chocolate
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Hot Cacao Mixes (I promise it doesn’t taste like mushrooms!)
Let There Be Light!
The main cause of seasonal sadness is a lack of light…so let’s shine some light on the subject!
Get a lightbox. A light therapy box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD.
Clean all of the windows in your home, and keep blinds/shades/curtains open during the day to allow as much natural light in as possible. Placing mirrors across from windows will help reflect more light into the room.
Get full-spectrum light bulbs. Just make sure they emit a minimum of 2,500 lux. I have this brand, which I found in a Goodwill store about 3 years and they are still going strong with every day use.
Use non-toxic candles. I’ve known for a few years now that most candles are pretty toxic, but I still continue to use conventional tealights and tapers (groan). I also enjoy making my own safer candles, using pesticide and GMO free soy wax, organic essential oils, and clean burning candle wicks. Luckily, more and more companies are making non-toxic candles, so you don’t have to resort to making them yourself.
I can’t believe I’m advocating this, but if things get bad enough, visit a tanning bed. There have been a few severe winters where slapping on sunscreen and lying in a tanning bed was the only way for me to say sane.
I know, I know, I started this by talking about not leaving the house, but being cooped up indoors all the time isn’t healthy. Sometimes just checking the mail or taking out the trash can be enough fresh air for me, and other times I need to bundle up and go for a walk. I also open the windows in the house and car, to varying degrees, depending on the weather. Getting fresh air and exercise can make a world of difference, just be sure to dress appropriately!
I don’t want to overload you, but I think we’ve established a good foundation before we move on to Part 2! Let’s start by choosing how we want to feel, then take action to match that feeling. Turn your home into a cozy winter sanctuary. Put your health first and nourish yourself with immune boosters and plenty of fresh air, light, and exercise. In Part 2 we’ll get to the fun stuff, like reading, movies and music lists, meditations, reiki, yoga practices and more!