Winter can be difficult. Out east, the days are colder, darker, and gloomier. Yet it can also be a perfect time for deep sleep, hot saunas, and much-needed rest.
While it’s true that winter can be more solitary, it doesn’t mean we have to become isolated or feel depressed. In fact, winter is the perfect time to return to a few self-care basics and make a handful of improvements to your environment that will help you stay on course.
Below are 3 strategies I have for you based on “5 Foundational Principles of Functional Medicine”. You can weave these lifestyle tips into your days as you move through the dark winter months while holding onto what matters most…your physical health & mental well-being!
#1: Get Plenty of Light & Fresh Air
It’s no secret that feelings of happiness can plummet during the winter. One of the reasons can be from a lack of natural daylight. A decrease in sunlight disrupts our body’s internal circadian rhythm, which is our sense of time connected to the natural flow of “wake into sleep” (or “day into night”) cycles. It also affects our body’s production of serotonin (aka the “good mood” neurotransmitter in your brain).
What I like to do is bundle up and go for short daily walks. Having a pet is a great motivator for this and walking is the best method to alleviate pain! My desk is near a window where I can look out into the natural light and will on occasion expand my perimeter vision to give relief.
Why daylight is so important? Your gut microbiome —the part of you that is largely responsible for digestion, assimilating nutrients, supporting your immune system & keeping you healthy requires daily movement, daylight, sound sleep, a good laugh, and even a steady diet! Science tells us that
#2: Stay Physically & Socially Active
Another helpful strategy is to remain both physically and socially active. During winter, it can be much easier to stay indoors and isolate yourself from friends, family, and even exercise. Even if the weather is cold and dreary outside, you can still do simple exercises at home to boost your cardio and strength.
Depending on your age and capabilities, maybe it’s a few minutes of jumping jacks, a little bit of strength yoga, or even a few quick pushups. Be sure to maintain core “integrity” for stability & add in gentle resistance. Not only will the movement feel good, but it’ll also improve your mood and keep your health in check. As far as being social, a little goes a long way. Call a friend and invite family over. Go out for a quick lunch once a week. Or maybe go see a new movie.
One of the premier concepts in functional medicine has to do with gut-brain “cross talk”. In a nutshell, remaining physically and socially active provides stress relief & calm while also improving digestion by activating the pathways that are common to your brain neurons, neurotransmitters and your gut microbes.
#3: Keep Your Diet On Track
It can be tempting in winter to eat a lot more comfort foods, and snack on treats mindlessly straight from the bag. These are foods that are higher in processed sugars, trans & saturated fats, and often lacking in any nutritional value. This can then turn into a vicious cycle.
Cooking, or even assembling a home-cooked meal in a slow-cooker is perfect for winter! It’s best to keep your diet focused on healthy vegetables (frozen is fine), lean sources of protein, quality dietary fats, nuts, beans, fruits, and whole grains. I start my mornings with bone broth & pasture-raised eggs so that I can fortify my body with the vital nutrients, minerals, and protein necessary to maintain energy, mood, and stamina.
Don’t forget to mix in foods that are loaded with prebiotics and probiotics to keep your immune system strong and robust during the cold/flu season as well. Be sure to pick up a copy of my “Fueling Your Gut Microbiome” report.
While these three tips may seem easy to implement, sticking with them can be the biggest challenge. This is why turning them into tiny habits is key. You don’t have to go extreme on exercise, your diet, or socializing with friends or family. Start small.
Find out what works best for your lifestyle and make the habits automatic.
“While Functional Medicine does take a very individualistic approach to health, healing and preventing – it never relies on assumptions or guesses. It lets the body tell the story of what’s really going on. By taking this commonsense approach, the real root causes of chronic disease and discomfort can be accurately revealed.”
~Dr. Doug Pucci, author, The 5 Foundational Principles of Functional Medicine
If winter still has you feeling down in the dumps, or even full of anxiety, you might want to consider booking your free First Step Success Call. This 15 minutes 100% devoted to you could be a game-changer that will help you banish your winter mood while also uplifting your spirits all day long.
Dr. Doug Pucci, Founder, Pucci Wellness, is a functional medicine expert in practice for 30+ years. Voted 1 of 12 Doctors to Watch in 201 Magazine, he was honored to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work.
Dr. Pucci provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain+body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms. Learn how functional medicine, neurology & nutrition can help you get back on track starting now. Get the brochure.