In Our Words: Helpful winter health tips

It’s really easy to want to stay indoors all the time in the winter months. Biologically, we all want to stay somewhere warm and safe. It makes sense. Doing that keeps you secure.

That said, do you want to stay safe indoors this winter or would you like to go outside and maybe live a little bit better?

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The following are some tips on how you get the most out of winter. It can be a difficult time, but you can use the time as a way to create some good, sustainable change in your own health to make you feel better long-term.

I'm not a doctor and these aren’t tips to make you swimsuit ready in four weeks or less - they’re simply pointers, based on experience, for how you can live a better, healthier life in the dark season.

First, lean into social activities. Yes, sending messages on your group chat is all well and good, but it’s not a substitute for face-to-face social interaction.

People, myself included, often like to shut themselves off in the winter months. After all, who wants to go outside when it’s minus-30 out there?

The reality is that the world doesn’t just stop in the winter. Not only is pulling back unnecessary, it’s unhealthy. Going to a concert, a hockey game or any public event will give you a boost. Even meeting with old friends, including ones you haven’t seen in a while, will help you out.

If you can, get some sunlight and/or take vitamins. The whole “dark when I go to work, dark when I go home” isn’t only depressing – it can give you deficiencies in vitamin D and cause production of those sweet, sweet happy hormones like serotonin, melatonin and others to slow. Nothing makes you feel quite as bad as when your brain shuts off supply of the happy juice, so keep that flow going.

Keep a sleep schedule. If you’re feeling stressed, there’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep to help that. Since it gets dark so early in a northern winter, it’s easy to start getting drowsy around 7 p.m. and have a snooze. Try not to - that can ruin whatever chance of a good night’s sleep you had in the first place.

Branching out from that idea, keeping a regular schedule in the winter months is a crucial thing to do. It’s easy to let the lack of sunlight and cold weather force you inside. Don’t let nature dictate who you are, how you feel or what you do. You can handle that.

The most effective way to beat winter is to change small parts of your routine in ways that will help out your own mental and physical health.

Get some exercise. There are, by my count, five different publicly available gyms or weight rooms in Flin Flon alone. The weekly, monthly or even yearly rates are a relatively small price to pay for the mental and physical boost you’ll get from exercise. Gyms are warm places, just like your living room, and you’ll feel better both in them and after them.

If you’ve never exercised seriously before, search for a routine. Don’t worry about other people in the gym - nobody is watching you work out. Even if you’re self-conscious about your appearance in the gym, remember that no matter how awkward or goofy you look in the gym, you’re helping yourself.

Every time you go to the gym, you’re lapping everybody at home sitting on the couch.

Change your diet. If you eat a lot of junk food and fried stuff (I admit, I’m guilty), changing your diet is one of the most effective ways you can help your own health. If you want to drop a few and feel better, having a healthier diet is how you do it.

Drinking more water is good. Cutting out unnecessary sugars is good, too. Eating more veggies can help. You don’t have to make a radical change all at once, but making even one of the changes I’ve mentioned can help you out.

Stay warm. Sure, that sounds like a no-brainer, but everybody in the north should have a good heavy coat that fits and keeps the heat in. Some people may think they’re tougher than the cold - trust me, you’re not. There’s no heroes in chills and frostbite.

Also, if you can, donate a coat to a community group. There are plenty of people who go through Flin Flon winters cold because they can’t afford a good coat. It’s a basic need here. If you can help, help.

Building on that idea, donate your time and effort to community groups. Volunteer at the food bank or by cooking up warm meals. Help an old lady cross the street (although you should check to make sure she wants to cross the street first). Just do something. Winter sucks for everybody and everything you can do to ease the pain for someone else should be pursued.

Finally, if all else fails, see a medical professional or seek counselling. I’m a huge proponent of getting help if you need it. If you need someone to talk to, find a way. If a doctor says you need medication to help you cope, take it. It seems like common sense, as many of these suggestions may be, but they’re still vital steps.

See friends. Go do things you might not normally get out and enjoy. Break a rule or two - nothing that ends with you in court or handcuffs, mind you, but still.

Knowing you’re living well is a great feeling. Get on track and feel better.

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