Tips for a Healthier and Happier Winter from Dr. Burkman
Don’t forget your water when out and about this winter! I often have patients tell me it’s harder to remember to drink water in the winter because the weather isn’t hot. While water in the summer is important too, it is just as important if not more important in the winter. Between dry air, increased consumption of caffeine during these dark days and often over consumption of dehydrating alcoholic drinks, we are often running around on very little water. Dehydration is linked to fatigue, headaches and can hinder your immune system leading to increased susceptibility to illness.
I know this goes without saying, but movement is important to help reduce those extra calories we often eat in the colder months. Adopt a simple exercise plan that is easy to attain and stick to. I like recommending free fitness applications on your phone or computer that mix up workouts and keep you interested. As little as 10 minutes a day can reduce calories and improve mood and energy.
I often find in the sleepy dark months of winter, we push ourselves to stay up later, which can lead to altered sleeping patterns, mood changes and weakened immune system. Darkness induces a small but important gland in the brain called the pineal gland to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the “sleepy” hormone. With increased hours of darkness, some of us are more susceptible to the sleepy effects of melatonin, making us groggier in the day and can be associated with increased seasonal affective disorder, or winter depression. What can you do? First is to keep a regular sleep pattern. Try to get to bed and wake the same time each day. Avoid napping if you can even if it is tempting in the afternoon when it is dark. The goal is 8 hours of sleep, while this various for each individual, it is a goal to aim for.
The sugar crash is real! Foods high in sugar cause our energy and mood to feel erratic. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your favorite seasonal treats on occasion, just be mindful about it. Pair a sugary treat with a high fat and protein meal. This will help keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing so quickly. Also, an easy way to support healthier foods this winter is to cook with healthy satiating fats like avocado, coconut, flax and nut butters and substitute unsweetened apple sauce or mashed bananas in place of sugar. These simple tips can turn an unhealthy treat into a more nutritious one.
We all need a little love now and again, and in the winter when we are more isolated and cooped up inside it is important to remember that you and your friends, family and neighbors need some love too. When you start to feel overwhelmed stop and think, why am I not feeling balanced. What do you need to help you feel more balanced? Ask for help when needed and try to be available to reciprocate when you can, and “Put a little love in your heart!”