Expert Ways To Strengthen Your Mind and Body During Winter

Expert Ways To Strengthen Your Mind and Body During Winter

Do you look forward to or dread winter? No matter what your feelings are towards this season, it’s important to enter winter with a positive and determined outlook. In this article, I’ll discuss ways to maintain (or improve) your mood and strengthen your body all while the snow is falling down.

Start with good body mechanics

As we get older, snow becomes more of a responsibility for us than something to enjoy. Understandably, winter often comes with shoveling snow and other winterizing efforts to keep your home safe and accessible. Unfortunately, shoveling can be tedious, especially if you have to head outside while it is still snowing to get the job done as quickly as possible. With this in mind, it is important to utilize good body mechanics to prevent injury to your spine and aggravation of chronic conditions, such as heart disease.

If you do not feel well enough to be shoveling snow or operating a snowblower, enlist the help of others. Neighborhood children are typically eager to offer their services at a low cost to make some money.

Ways to avoid injury during winter snow shoveling

Dress in layers with hats, scarves, and gloves. In deep winter, opt for a heavier winter jacket and lined pants to prevent injury from the cold. Good-fitting snow boots also play an integral role in preventing falls on patches of ice.

Shoveling earlier is better than later. You will have an easier time shoveling light and fluffy snow, rather than hard and packed snow that has been accumulating for hours.

Lift with your legs rather than your back. Your legs are meant for movement and your spine provides stability. By bending your knees and lowering yourself slightly while shoveling, you have a better grasp on the weight you are carrying. This means you can more easily manipulate the shovel and snow once you straighten your legs to toss it away.

Remember to do light stretches before shoveling. Many people underestimate how strenuous this activity is and can easily injure themselves by jumping right in.

Try to avoid twisting motions. This includes throwing the snow over your back or to the side. This places undue stress on the spine and can increase your risk for injury. While it takes more time, be sure to keep your spine straight and stable while walking to move the snow to its desired location. Once you are there, try to use only your arms to place the snow next to you.

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Follow up with a healthy diet

Winter is home to several food-centered holidays. This means stews, hearty soups, heavy casseroles, rich desserts, and candy galore. While comfort foods are a central part of holiday celebrations, try to remember the impact they may have on your body. Comfort foods may feel good in the moment but usually follow with fatigue and lethargy. This leads to being sedentary, which often means you will not perform enough exercise to burn off the calories from your most recent meal. 

Many people let their structured diets fall by the wayside once the weather gets colder. This is normal and even acceptable for some people, as it allows them a change of routine and the opportunity to incorporate other types of healthy foods into the day. However, it is important to avoid falling into a rut where your diet is drastically different and more unhealthy than your typical diet.

How to improve your diet during the winter

Limit your treats. While handfuls of candy are not recommended around the holidays, a few cubes of dark chocolate at the end of the week may be the treat you are looking forward to. Though it is still high in sugar and should be limited, dark chocolate has more antioxidants than other types of candy.

Find new ways to cook healthy winter foods. Winter is the perfect time to try cooking new meals with winter squash, broccoli, cauliflower, or root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and turnips. These vegetables provide Vitamins A and C, which are both essential for immunity and can help stave off wintertime illnesses.

Try to emphasize the vegetables in your soup. These ingredients will give you more energy than soups that are heavy in meat, dairy products, and salt.

Opt for more nutritious meat, such as tuna and salmon. These fish options are great sources of Vitamin D, which helps your energy level and mood during a season where access to sunlight is limited.

RELATED: 10 Alternatives To Candy For Halloween Trick-or-Treaters

Engage in productive activities

Watching movies on the couch is a great way to spend a lazy snow day or weekend. Yet, this is not the best option for every winter day. In fact, it is easy to ignore responsibilities and stay in to beat the weather, but this may have a long-term impact on your mood and energy levels.

How to engage in productive activities during the winter

Provide yourself with structure and productive activities that engage your mind. Start books on your reading list, learn a new language, work on a craft project, find a jigsaw puzzle, or work on word games like word searches or sudoku. Many of these activities help stimulate your mind when your body is not as productive. 

Find new ways to work out and get your activity levels up. You can set up a home gym with minimal space, take the stairs more often at work, or get creative with other ways to work out.

Plan for the future. If you are prone to the winter blues, it’s a good idea to start planning what your spring and summer will look like. While you shouldn’t focus entirely on the future and try to make your winter as productive as possible, it often helps to have something to look forward to, such as trips, activities, experiences, or items to check off your bucket list.

Make fun winter plans. You can organize game nights, attend trivia events, host gift exchanges, and more. These will all help get your creative wheels going while allowing you to spend time with others. It may be hard to get yourself motivated for certain things during the winter, but socializing helps most people feel better.

Focus on good sleep. With the days much shorter and what seems like never-ending darkness, it may be difficult for your body to adjust to the new schedule. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule will help your body stay regular and feel its best.

RELATED: What Is Physical Wellness and Why Is It Important?

Conclusion

Winter may seem like a long and difficult season for some people, but there are many (fun) ways you can stick to a routine and keep the winter blues away. Despite the change in weather that may complicate some plans, it is very possible to engage in practices that keep your health on track.

Remember to use good body mechanics, from lifting with your legs when shoveling to not slouching on the couch for prolonged periods of time. This will prevent injury and help you effectively manage any chronic conditions you are living with. Try cooking meals with healthy and popular winter foods, rather than opting for heavy, hearty comfort foods. Explore new ways to exercise and be productive, using both your mind and body. Continue to stay on a regular sleep schedule to help your mood and energy levels.

These tips will help you engage in a productive winter while still celebrating all the holidays that come along with the season.

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Brittany Ferri, MS, OTR/L, CCTP, CLT
Brittany Ferri is a registered and licensed occupational therapist. Her clinical experiences include psychosocial therapy, outpatient rehab, and complementary and alternative therapies (CAMs). She is the owner and founder of Simplicity of Health, LLC and currently serves as a virtual therapist for a platform which provides family-based therapy for children. Brittany also provides health and wellness consulting and education for community agencies, consulting for health businesses and products, and individual client treatments using holistic and traditional methods. She also writes health copy for several consumer-facing health publications. Other roles Brittany has assumed include adjunct professor, lead therapist, project coordinator, and developer of policy and procedure. In May 2019, Brittany published Effective Occupational Therapy Documentation with the help of Nova Science and her second book is already in the works. She is passionate about education, health promotion, and disease prevention for all her clients and community partners. Check out her website at https://www.simplicityofhealth.com

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