What This Winter Has Taught Me About My Health

166142148There are things we can control in life such as what we say and what we do. Sometimes, we can just give up control altogether and be at peace with where we are in life. The weather is not something we can control, nor should we want to. The seasons teach us magical lessons, including how the temperature outside affects your personal health and wellness journey.

My home and native land is Canada and winters here, like on the U.S. north and northeast coast, are traditionally cold and snowy; however, I don’t quite remember it being this long before. The cold and snow began in November, and Environment Canada had said that there is a 79% chance that the greater Toronto area will see below average temperatures into April. That’s nearly six months of winter. That’s half the year. We could dwell in the moment or we can learn from it.

The present moment always teaches us what we need to know now. Here are four things I’ve learned about my health and wellness this winter season.

Vitamin D

The body needs natural sunlight to obtain vitamin D; however, the short winter days don’t provide much, especially when you spend most of your day in the office like I do. I think a lack of vitamin D has affected my energy levels, causing me to feel tired and listless. Eggs and milk are considered good sources of vitamin D, although as a vegetarian who eats very little eggs and dairy, obtaining vitamin D in the winter is very important.

I may consider eating more organic eggs or trying vitamin D supplementation. I could also consider eating more mushrooms as well. Portobello mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms have decent levels of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Certain varieties of mushrooms are known to grow in ultraviolet light to produce more vitamin D.

Immunity

It’s easier to get sick in the winter, and although I haven’t had a major cold in the last few years, this winter seemed to catch up with my immune system. I had one minor cold that lasted about a week, and also styes on both eyes. My immune system was breaking down from the weather and my busy schedule.

A lot of people were recommending more probiotics to help build my immune system. Probiotic supplements and more fermented foods such as miso soup and the fermented drink kombucha are some immune-boosting options that can help improve health and wellness.

Warm Soups

In the winter the body needs more foods that are warming to the system. Homemade soups definitely provide that warming comfort. I’ve learned that making soups can be fun and easy as well. I have been enjoying soups such as Middle Eastern lentil soup and a carrot and ginger purée. The many soups I’ve been eating have certainly been benefiting my health and wellness overall.

Just Breathe

It seems as if the long winter will just last forever. In moments where everything seems overwhelming and frustrating, I have learned to take a step back, accept, and appreciate the moment, and just breathe. Several practices have helped bring peace and serenity into my life such as restorative or hot yoga classes, guided meditations, and even just taking two minutes to reflect on the moment and simply breathe. I realize I may have a busy schedule; however, taking time to relax is very important for my health and wellness, especially during the stressful winter months.

Winter may be predictable and uncontrollable. It’s part of life. I’ve realized that it’s best to focus on what you can control. You can control how you feel about your health and wellness. You can control you. I intend on learning wisely from each winter season, and surrendering to the lessons of nature.

What have you learned about yourself this winter?

Sources:
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 796.

Lee, M., “Vegan Sources of Vitamin D,” SFGate web site; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/vegan-sources-vitamin-d-3797.html, last accessed March 12, 2014.
Berkoff, F., “Getting vitamin D in the winter,” Toronto Sun web site, Nov. 25, 2012; http://www.torontosun.com/2012/11/23/getting-vitamin-d-in-the-winter.
Davidson, T., “Colder-than-normal winter is here to stay,” Toronto Sun web site, Feb. 2, 2014; http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/02/colder-than-normal-winter-is-here-to-stay.
“My Top 4 Sources of Vitamin D As a Raw Vegan,” Raw Advantage web site, Feb. 8, 2013; http://www.therawadvantage.com/2013/02/ways-to-get-vitamin-d/.