Dear Seekers

This week will bring the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.  This means that even though we will be dealing with cold weather for awhile, the sun will be shining for a few extra minutes every day.  For those of you who struggle with winter – for whatever reason – there are little things you can do to make it better.

Use your breath.  We teach our patients to breathe more mindfully, and what better way to become more aware of your breath than to actually watch it come out of your mouth, in beautiful billowing plumes of steam in the cold winter air?  It can be just as nice to feel the tingling in your throat as you breathe in.

Use hot water.  Our modern world’s access to hot water is truly a luxury.  It is amazing to think about what the pioneers who lived in Canada had to do to make hot water.  All we have to do is turn on the tap.  Heat reduces the cold stress that our bodies deal with every day.  Take a moment to stretch tight muscles during your morning shower.  Put some epsom salts into a warm evening bath for better sleep.

Drink the right fluids.  Hot coffee might help you start your day, but try using hot water throughout the day.  Add honey, lemon or cayenne pepper to boost metabolism and absorb more.  We lose more water in winter because we need to produce more heat to stay warm.  Better hydration can sometimes lead to less pain and a better brain.

Eat the right foods.  A raw food diet can be helpful for some people, but your body needs warming foods more during the winter months.  Hot stews, broths and chilis with plenty of legumes and vegetables.  Add meat, poultry and fish to some of them if you like.  Use coconut oil for cooking and put some olive oil and avocados at the table.  Experiment with spices.

Choose the right activity.  I am lucky that I get to walk 40 minutes to work every morning.  But for most of us, the cold weather makes it harder to get the exercise we need.

    • If you have access to a  gym membership, use it.  Your community centre will offer very low-cost day passes.
    • If you know how to skate, print the public skating schedule for the arena nearest you.  Use the Rideau Canal when it opens.  It is a quintessential Ottawa experience.
    • If you are afraid of falling, cross-country skiing is a great low-impact sport.  Fresh Air Experience rents the equipment and there are courses offered at the Terry Fox Centre where you can learn the basics.
    • Buy an aerobic machine and put it in front of the TV.  You might ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes every day.  Many people buy equipment and never use it, but that doesn’t meet you won’t.  Buy a used one if you prefer.
    • Take a walk every day.  Even if it is only a walk around the block for 5-10 minutes, it can give you fresh air, sunlight, natural beauty and happiness in addition to the exercise.Talk to the right people.  We see each other less in the winter.  It is harder to get outside and harder to get together.  Try calling a friend in the evening to say hello.  Reach out to old friends, distant relatives and long-lost soul mates from an earlier time in your life.  Talk about good memories and share some laughter.

Winter can be tough, especially for people with pain and other health issues.  But we are Canadians after all.  And this beautiful country can be even more inspiring in the frozen white silence.

Happy Holidays!

Dr. Nahas

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