By the time February comes around, it is cold, the days are short, and local travel takes longer. The past three years have been exceptionally difficult with the addition of the pandemic shutting down many resources for people and forcing us to stay indoors. So how do we stay motivated to keep moving and be healthy? And as everything starts to open back up, how do we leave our past laziness behind so we can move forward with the plans we all had for our lives before COVID-19?
I don’t know about you, but I just ignore COVID-19 years as if they don’t count.
I guess there are some people who have been pushing through and staying active and adapting to a new lifestyle without really noticing a difference in their overall physical or mental health; those people aren’t me.
The winter (even before the pandemic), making up the worst months of the year for my health, now seems tolerable. I think I have finally found the perfect mixture of self-care ingredients to help me live a stable life without compromise, especially during the coldest months. I can break it down into three major steps:
Environment* (I add this one as a bonus because I understand that not everyone is capable of changing their environment, but I do have some tips for using your environment in new ways because we cannot ignore the benefits).
Vitamins for me are the base for everything health-related. There is such a delicate balance of nutrients needed to sustain the functioning of our body as a whole and this can very quickly become problematic in the winter when our exposure to the sun and access to fresh foods becomes even more difficult. Vitamins help regulate our hormones, our sleep, our organ functioning, and they boost our immune system.
So, don’t skip updating your vitamin intake in the winter, and see a doctor if you have any questions regarding which vitamins you may benefit from supplementing.
Of course, you may not need to supplement many of your vitamins if you can get them in your diet, but eating a balanced diet year-round can be difficult, which is why diet comes second. Maintaining a healthy diet is always important so if you struggle with this in general, there are ways to ease into healthy eating.
Winter foods can be very hearty and delicious so I would suggest starting to find one or two healthy alternatives that you can supplement into your meals either by removing one unhealthy option or by simply adding in a new healthy option. Baked potato, oats, or even vegetable soup are all great ways to add healthy options into your pantry without feeling the need to get rid of your comfort foods. The key to a healthy diet, I think, is to start slowly and not to deprive yourself of your favorite snacks. Everything in moderation.
Once you have a balanced diet that can sustain an exercise regimen, the key to sustainable exercise is understanding what types of physical activity are going to be beneficial for the problem you are having. For example, if you would benefit from an increased metabolism throughout the day, weight training for short periods of time can help you do that as well as boost your mood.
Once you have a routine that gives you a good start to your day, implementing cardio or endurance training for longer periods of time will release endorphins in your body, helping you de-stress and generally increase your wellbeing. There are many videos on YouTube that help you find innovative ways to perform these exercises in any space, and don’t forget to change it up occasionally so that you don’t get bored or plateau.
Changing your environment can also prevent plateauing and give you the stimulation necessary to stay or get motivated. A change of environment can be as simple as taking a shower in the morning to get you out of your bedroom, loosen up your muscles, warm up your skin, and generally wake you up to start your day on a good note.
Or you can look out your window while you drink your tea if you don’t want to go outside in the cold. Reducing your screen time and increasing your exposure to natural light have many benefits for our mental and physical health. If you do go outside or know your house is too cold for you then try buying some warm clothes or layer up so that you don’t stay pinned under a blanket all day. Whatever you can do, make sure that you understand your tendencies and try to work with them so that you can be comfortable but stay motivated.
knowing your mental cycle
Now that you have the ingredients, there is one last step that can help make this recipe better for you. Knowing your personal preferences is always beneficial and, for a healthy active lifestyle, this preference is your mental cycle. Knowing what mental cycle you are in will help you to decide what work needs to be done to get you motivated.
These stages can look like this:
Pre-contemplation—I will in the next 6 months.
Contemplation—I may in the next 6 months.
Preparation—I will in the next month.
Maintenance—I have been for six months.
Once you understand where you are, you can set your goals and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to achieve them. From this, motivation comes when you see yourself achieving your goals and you continue to increase the intensity. So, make sure that you start slow and work your way up, this way, you will always be receiving positive physical and physiological effects whilst you are adapting your healthy habits to the new season.
Don’t forget to take your new regimen slow and steady. Add things as you feel ready and change things when you get bored. These changes can be difficult at first but the benefits that you gain can help you to continue on your path of well-being. And our well-being does not have to suffer in the winter!