What do you picture when you think of winter? Maybe it’s shoveling snow or watching your hard-grown plants wilt with the coming cold. If that all makes you want to recede into your house and wait till the sun comes back out in the spring, you’re not alone.
It’s tempting to look at winter with pessimism. It’s cold-and-flu season, it’s cold, it’s dark. And it’s seemingly harder to stay vibrant and healthy.
Or, is it?
Actually, if we honor the nature of winter and choose activities that fill us up, rather than deplete us, winter gives us exactly what we need to stay healthy throughout the year. It gives us all time to slow down, rest and recover from the busy seasons, and reconnect with loved ones.
Winter is a great time to invest in yourself. For most of spring, summer, and fall, you’re giving of yourself and creating – planting the garden, preserving food, and fixing all that needs fixing.
Winter, however, is the time of year to refill your cup. Whether it’s your mental or emotional well-being or your physical health and wellness that need attention, it’s your chance to take care of yourself.
So, how can you make the most of the winter season and come out the other side healthy and ready for the spring rush?
Here are 10 tips for staying healthy and refilling your cup on the homestead during the winter season.
1. Develop a Yoga Practice/Stretch Your Body & Mind
The calm of winter is a helpful reminder that you can find stillness in yourself. Yoga is a great way to slow down and take stock of how your mind and your body are feeling after the hectic nature of summer.
Of course, the heavy chores that maintain your home don’t stop just because the seasons change.
Maintaining your flexibility will not only give you time to spend in your own body to search for mental clarity but also to strengthen the physical connections that keep your muscles moving for those everyday chores.
Attending to the needs of your body and mind is a great foundation for staying healthy this winter. Here are a couple of suggestions to keep you in the mindset:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
Start with air in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then try one nostril at a time and see how you feel. Breathing mindfully is a practice you can use in any environment to help reduce anxiety and relax.
- Focus On Your Posture
This will help you with breathing as well. Engaging your skeletal muscles might feel foreign at first, but with a healthy posture, you’ll feel more energized. Keep that chin up, and shoulders back.
2. Lift Weights to Maintain or Improve Strength
The slowness of winter doesn’t have to seep into your bones – or muscles, for that matter.
While the tempo of homesteading in the winter is not as high-energy as it is in the spring, the benefits of building your strength by pinpointing certain muscles will give you a leg up for the coming spring tasks.
Colder temperatures may stiffen your muscles a touch, but nothing gets them tighter and achier than sudden inactivity.
Healthline has some good starting tips and examples to follow.
You don’t need fancy equipment to start. At first, you can use your body weight to get familiar with what feels natural. It’s a great starting point, not only because it is humbling to know how hard it is to hold a plank for 20 seconds but also because of how rewarding it is to know how strength is all about perspective.
Whether you start with arm raises or 10-pound weights, it’s about engaging the muscles you rely on to keep your homestead, as well as yourself, running.
Building muscle isn’t just about strength, either. It also improves metabolism. Retaining your strength from the summer work, or expanding on it, will lead to a higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). The higher the rate, the more efficient your body gets at burning calories while at rest.
3. Declutter Your Homestead
Everyone talks about spring cleaning, but have you heard of Winter Rearranging? Don’t be fooled into thinking winter is a time of hibernating and waiting for the sun to come back out. It’s much more accurately a time to dream big.
Pick a room or pick a corner, and set to rearrange it for a different purpose or a different look.
The flow of your home is yours to play with and to experiment with during the winter months.
Reimagining your space in a novel way is not only an engaging mental exercise but also a fun way to express yourself instead of feeling cooped up in the home during those winter months.
“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”― Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
4. Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin D
You’ve heard it before: “Get. Your. Vitamins.” But why Vitamin D? The truth is that this vitamin is crucial in hormone regulation.
Sunlight, once absorbed into your skin, sets off a chain reaction to develop Vitamin D, which in turn travels through the body in different forms. It helps regulate other hormones to be released in the body, such as melatonin, which aids in sleep regulation.
Vitamin D is a natural byproduct of being outdoors in the sun, so how do you make sure you’re getting enough when the sun isn’t around as much?
Start with adding these foods to your diet:
- Eggs (the yolk in particular)
- White Mushrooms
Making sure you get enough Vitamin D during the winter months will help set you up for stronger immune function and help protect against inflammation which can lead to brain fog. That means you will be more present for your day-to-day activities and the creativity that’s required for homesteading.
5. Make Your Own Hand Salve for Cold and Cracking Skin
Our skin is the largest organ, and as a result, it is the first barrier and protection from the cold and any opportunistic bacteria.
Making your own salve isn’t that hard and will be a great way to take pride in maintaining your body during the winter. Moisturize, soothe, and heal the aches and pains that come with the cold and hardworking hands.
The best part about making your own salve is that you can personalize it for your own skincare needs.
6. Eat Enough Fiber
There isn’t just one kind, there are many, but you’ll find it’s easiest to think about fiber in terms of soluble and insoluble. Fiber, when soluble, allows for the “good” bacteria to flourish and aids in digestion, which in turn means better absorption of the nutrients we need to feel energized. Insoluble fiber also aids in digestion.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women under the age of 50. If you’re over the age of 50, they suggest reducing the amount to 30 grams per day for men, and 21 grams per day for women.
It’s best to introduce fiber into your diet incrementally, as it might take time for your body to adjust. And, while you can take fiber supplements (and should if you need to), it’s best to get your fiber from meals, as you’ll get more than just the benefits of fiber. Some high-fiber foods you might consider are lentils, broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, raspberries, and almonds.
7. Stay Hydrated
Just because the sweltering heat is being replaced by colder weather, it doesn’t mean your body needs any less of that sweet H2O. Wait, water doesn’t taste sweet, it tastes like cardboard you say? I’ve got a tip – stop drinking cold water.
Room temperature is best, not only for energy retention but also for flavor.
There’s good news for those of you out there who aren’t convinced they can drink eight glasses a day because water knows no limits in the forms it comes in:
- Berries, Peaches, Plums
- Beets, Carrots, Kale
- Tea (low caffeine)
- Soups and Stews
8. Make and Eat Probiotic-Rich Fermented Foods
Your gut could always use an extra hand in creating a friendly environment for the good bacteria that not only aid in digestion but also ward off bad bacteria. Why else would we add the good bacteria? Johns Hopkins research suggests gut microbial diversity may affect our mood and possibly even our cognition.
The gut-brain axis is best supported when consuming probiotic-rich fermented foods. Here are a few quick ideas that you can make easily at home:
Cabbage and salt are all you need. A cool environment is ideal for the month-long fermentation process.
Your choice of vegetables, typically cabbage, and radishes, mixed with garlic, ginger, and scallion at room temperature for a couple of days.
- Pickling Vegetables
Avoid sugar or whey, and stick to salt or lemon juice, as the goal here is to reduce inflammation.
9. Keep Your Medicine Chest Stocked with Herbal Remedies
What ensures better peace of mind during flu season than having your own stock of herbal remedies? Probably having a doctor in the family, but this is the next best thing! Educating yourself on how to treat wounds, rashes, and any ailments that come with the cold is a great step toward growing your homestead and supporting your immune system.
To support your physical and emotional health during the winter, you can start to build your herbal remedies chest with these four helpers from nature:
- Elderberry helps your immune system fight the flu and common colds. This common medicinal herb can be cooked down into a syrup and added to teas and baked goods. It’s high in antioxidants and vitamin C – all crucial in fighting chronic disease and invading bacteria.
- Echinacea builds immunity under threat. If there’s a cold already moving throughout your household, or you feel like you’re about to come down with something, this plant’s roots pack the biggest immune booster.
- Calendula soothes the skin. Aside from being pretty to look at, once dried, the flower combines effortlessly in salves and lotions to repair skin. From helping to heal rashes and wounds, and even going so far as being an antifungal agent, calendula is a helpful flower to grow in your homestead garden.
- Lemon balm promotes relaxation. This plant not only tastes nice because it’s a part of the mint family, but it also helps relieve stress, promotes sleep, and reduces fevers.
10. Stay Inspired By Planning Your Spring Garden
A fun part of winter is looking ahead and getting motivated for the work to come in the spring. What better inspiration is there than asking your stomach what it wants to eat? Think about some of your favorite meals, the kinds you can eat day in and day out. Are there any consistent ingredients that keep popping up? That’s a great jumping-off point to decide what you want to devote most of your growing space to and how to plan around it.
- Brainstorm your favorite meals and new recipes you want to try. See if you can center them around some of these early spring-friendly vegetables:
- Get familiar with the planting schedule of your seeds in early spring. Set a countdown like you do for the new year, with each vegetable getting its own cause for celebration. It adds a certain whimsy to the process.
- Add flowers to your garden layout, as certain plants can aid in fighting off pests and helping maintain the health of your garden. Not to mention, these companion plants can help as a visual reminder of what was planted where based on the needs of the growing seeds.
- Create a visual layout of your garden and determine what vegetables you can’t live without. Work in chunks, or boxes to keep the grid of your garden organized and easy to follow, as you’ll be adding on to it for summer and fall.
How Will You Paint Your Vision for Winter Wellness on the Homestead?
Whether winter weather brings you unapologetic, uncompromising cold or simply cooler days and nights where you live, it’s a time to get back to your roots as a homesteader and fortify your health both physically and mentally.
Whether you decide to relax or try something new, your body and mind will thank you for putting yourself first.
The vision you have for a healthy lifestyle can only be painted by you, but don’t forget to share it with your loved ones. You never know how showing up for yourself will inspire others around you to do the same for themselves.
So what steps are you going to take to fill your cup this winter? Which of these winter homesteading tips for staying healthy resonate most with you?
Share with a comment below or follow me on Pinterest to see what other activities I find myself exploring this season.