For most of us in the Northeast we dread this season all year long. It is dark, it is cold, there usually isn’t snow and there is enough holiday shopping traffic downtown to make us all cranky. December is tough and exhausting.
I’m not a cold weather person as all of my students will attest (I like to roast the studio during class) and anyone who has ever visited my house knows to bring a tanktop even in February. But this year my winter resolution has been to accept the cold and take action against it. I invite you to share in this plan if you are a fellow grumbler.
Bake the lower half of your body
I learned an interesting factoid the other day while shopping downtown. Your thighs produce an amazing amount of heat to help warm the body. If you are going to layer the lower body is actually a great place. First make sure the feet and lower legs are warm enough, then make sure the tender low back and sacrum is warm enough, but don’t forget about the thighs. If you run really cold instead of wearing more sweaters and vests, consider a thin pair of long underwear under your pants and you might be pleasantly surprised that you can go with less up top.
Be Aware of What You Are Wearing
Certain materials keep you warm, other materials are designed to make you look good and carelessly leak body heat. I’ve learned the hard way that some of my favorite items of clothing may look good but make me feel cold all the time. This season I’m re-examining my winter wardrobe and cutting out clothes that are useless for temperature regulation and adding a few attractive base layers that will help keep me warmer, but not bulkier. For the first time in years I also went coat shopping as I’ve decided my outer layer is really not the best fit for me. While everyone was out holiday shopping I was out buying warm clothes for myself, knowing that being warm this winter (and not grumpy) is a big gift to my family.
Avoid cold foods and drink
Summertime is the season of raw foods, ice cream stands and salads. Use your diet to build digestive fire and help heat the furnace of your body. Every time you eat a salad for dinner you run a little colder the next day, which may be great for some of you, but not for most of us. Be very careful with cold beverages, as fluids take longer to warm. Most of us should be drinking room temperature water and maybe pushing back a couple of cups of hot tea when we are feeling cold.
I’m biking now as much as possible. And to my surprise it is heating up my body not cooling it down. Even though my husband still wears a fleece to bike to school in every morning, I bike with my down parka. Not only do I get exercise, I arrive everywhere warm, instead of grumpy and cold.
Utilize the Light
Get outside in the light even for a little bit every day. This is the darkest time of year and an easy time to feel the winter blues. Remind yourself that the sun does come out every day by experiencing it. Last winter I spent a good deal of time driving and arriving everywhere in the early dawn glow and returning home in pitch black. It was very daunting. This year I’m running errands mid day and staying outside my car to help remind me there is light for so many hours of the day even today.
This is a trick I discovered several years ago and though it goes against all my beliefs about eating local and eating in season it helps fight off seasonal depression every year. I eat color in its brightest forms when I start to feel the familiar heaviness of seasonal depression. Berries work the best, especially raspberries, blackberries, cranberries. But I also like sharp citrus like lemons, limes and grapefruits. The sour flavor in Chinese Medicine helps soothe the Liver to keep qi flowing smoothly and the bitter flavor drains accumulated dampness in the body. Two things that can make you feel lighter and brighter. It is tough to pay a large chunk of money for a tiny pint of berries, but notice how much you can accomplish after adding them to your diet. If it means you move a little faster, think a little clearer and smile more, it will be worth it.