By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist
I love the springtime because of the possibilities and hopefulness it offers as nature never lets us down.
The countryside can look so bleak in winter, but in reality everything is simply resting, restoring itself and conserving its energy. So when the sun starts to shine and the days warm up, everything is ready to burst out with newness and freshness to exploit its full potential.
At the start of winter, I read a blog about how people go within and, like much of the natural world, adopt an attitude of hibernation. It prompted me to think differently about things: Could we be happier if we saw ourselves and our behaviour reflected in those seasonal flows?
Certainly, the cold, grey days have not bothered me as much as usual because I have appreciated lighting the fire and acknowledging that this is a time to slow up, rest and get ready – for spring and growth.
So as we begin to emerge from our hibernation, what do we need to do to care for ourselves effectively? Hydration, movement and a quiet mind are key and here is why:
1. Raise your energy levels by hydrating your mind and body
During the winter, most of us spend a lot of our time inside. But life indoors can be very dehydrating. There is central heating, hot fires and the electromagnetic fields of WiFi networks and mobile phones. Computers and other electrical equipment all produce heat when we use them, but all of these things take their toll on the levels of water content in our cells.
Indeed, according to the Hydration Foundation: “We are 99% water molecules and even a 2% reduction in hydration leads to measurable cognitive loss.” It is certainly a pity that more schools do not realise this fact as reduced hydration levels affect everything from the amount of energy an individual has, to their mood, their ability to concentrate, their hunger levels and their ability to feel joyful.
But the solution is easy: Simply drink more water, ideally eight glasses a day. Build it up slowly, especially if you currently do not consume that much, or indeed any.
A really beneficial way to start your day is with a big glass (eight to 12 oz) of water, with a pinch of pink Himalayan or sea salt and/or a squeeze of lemon. If you make it the first thing you do, you will give your organs a really good soak and get the hydration message straight into your cells and brain. But do not be tempted to use table salt as it does not contain the same essential minerals as other forms.
Plants and seeds can also hydrate us too. So add a tablespoon of ground chia seeds to your water and/or daily smoothie. Chia seeds form ‘gel water’, which is what we find inside plants – think of succulents, such as the Aloe vera.
Scientists have also recently discovered gel water inside our cells. This means they can absorb it instantly, giving us a great deal more energy and allowing the water to stay in our body for use rather than going straight through us. Find out more by viewing this TEDtalk by Dr Gerald Pollack.
A daily smoothie, which includes hydrating green veg, fruit, added ground chia and other seeds and nuts, will likewise provide you with long-lasting hydration – as will eating juicy fruit like apples. But you might also benefit from reading a book called Quench, which was released in 2018. Jam-packed with vital information you may not have considered before, it also provides a five-day ‘Quench’ plan to ensure optimum hydration.
Once you become adequately hydrated, movement is important to encourage even more hydration at the cellular level. Many of us spend large chunks of time crunched up over our computer at a desk. But sitting in this way compromises your organs, and sitting still for long time periods has been deemed as harmful as smoking cigarettes. Not only is it dehydrating, but as an article in The Guardian once put it: “When you’re sitting, you’re one step from being dead.”
So make sure you get up and move. If you are focusing on hydrating yourself, a positive side effect is that your bladder will remind you to move, which will in turn increase your oxygen supply and improve your blood and lymph flow.
Elsewhere, standing desks have been found to increase productivity and reduce the number of sick days taken – but even just doing head-to-chin and small spinal twists while sitting will help.
Also make tiny, little movements before you get out of bed. When you see cats and dogs stretching as they wake up, they are helping the cerebral spinal fluid flow around the head and down the back, which means they both energise and detox themselves at same time.
In order to prepare your body for spring though, go out to get lunch rather than eat at your desk and take advantage of the vitamin D that the sun will help you produce. Or walk the dog more often, get off the bus one stop early or park a bit further than usual from your destination. These may sound like simple things, but they can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.
Spending time outside also aids sleep as sunlight is required to set our circadian rhythms – and our gut microbiota respond to these natural cycles positively too. Even better, spend time outside with a friend who makes you laugh in order to boost your energy levels and release health-giving hormones. It really is about looking for the magic in everyday life.
3. Learn to quiet your mind
Finally, train yourself to quieten your mind using meditation, mindfulness techniques or simply a walk in the park where you focus on nature rather than on what is going on in your head. It is refreshing, relaxing and reboots your thinking.
Moreover, all it takes is a bit practice, and the benefits are huge. By stimulating your vagus nerve in this easy way, you are taken out of a fight or flight response, which physiologically reduces your stress response.
You can do it anywhere and only 10 minutes a day will help boost your mood, your energy levels and help destress you. A really helpful app here is Headspace. Complementary medicine advocate Deepak Chopra’s meditation programme is also great and he has a new one starting at the end of March, so why not give it a go?
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