So, winter is almost here! The days are getting shorter and it’s dark outside when I wake up at 6am for my morning sessions at the gym! Some of my clients complain about not being motivated enough to get out of bed and into their workout clothes to meet me for our session. It’s also getting colder at the beach, especially when it’s blowing from the north. My young students are feeling cold and we now call it a day by 17.00pm at the beach.
It does get colder and greyer during winter but we have to admit that we are really spoilt in Greece. We have sunshine and warm weather most of the year, plus fantastic conditions for fitness and windsurfing out in the open, even during winter time. I only stop training my clients outdoors between December and February; not because it’s too cold, but because the weather is not consistent and it messes up my session scheduling.
So, what can we do to keep our spirit high till the days start getting longer and warmer again? Come on, dark days don’t last that long here! We only have to wait till winter solstice, which falls on December 21, before days start getting longer again. Only a month left 😉
Below are the top things I do in order to keep my mood and spirit high during winter time. Maybe you can get some ideas!
I set goals that matter to me
When I set goals, I carefully pick out aspects of my life I want to improve and I always make sure to include more than one areas. These include -but are not limited to- my career, my relationships -friends, family and loved ones-, the space where I spend my time -be it my house, my windsurfing school or the gym- or simply just how much “space” I have in my life to take care of my needs, my health and wellbeing and my creative side. I pick goals which are realistic and achievable but I also like to challenge myself in order to keep things interesting. Moving forward helps me stay positive and motivated even when the sun isn’t shining outside. Oh and I make sure to never set goals that aren’t mine 😉
I never miss my workouts
Yes, it’s dark outside in the morning before work and in the evening after work as well. Some days are cold and rainy, too. But, exercise is a mood lifter and trust me, you need that lift during winter time! There hasn’t been a single day when I didn’t feel 20-30% better after my workout. Being active improves my mood, reduces the possibility of feeling blue, increases my ability to cope with stress and boosts my self-esteem, too! You don’t need to push yourself out of your comfort zone every time you train. Just make sure you make it to your workout!
I set aside a minimum of 15’ daily to help my body stay balanced
How I do that: I practice a set of yoga exercises that help my neck and spine stay aligned; yoga helps me stay more open and less tense during the day. Other days I do breathing exercises; diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce stress and anxiety and frees me from negative thoughts and feelings. I also practice meditation and relaxation techniques such as positive projection and visualisation. I always make time for this practice in my daily schedule, even if I have to set my alarm at 5am or sleep later at night after a long day.
I eat healthy
I am lucky because I was taught how to eat healthy since childhood. Growing up I was really angry I wasn’t allowed to eat McDonalds or all the crappy snacks my schoolmates were having but as an adult I appreciate my moms’ way of teaching me what’s healthy and what isn’t. I eat oatmeal for breakfast and I eat a lot of greens, legumes and unprocessed food. I eat free range eggs and chicken. I don’t drink cows’ milk and I don’t fancy cheese, either. I don’t eat refined carbs and sugar. I am also on and off red meat at designated periods throughout the year. This helps my body stay as toxin-free as possible and keeps my sugar levels balanced.
I reward myself and play as much as possible
My favorite reward is taking half a day or a whole day off to go windsurfing! This is practically impossible during late spring, summer and fall when I’m teaching in my school but it does get easier during late fall, winter and early spring, when I’m not that busy. I also reward myself by making time to do something “childish” and “random”, such as go to an amusement park, bake a funny cake as a surprise for a friend or just make an unplanned escape somewhere nearby – I’m sure you can think of many activities your inner child will be thrilled to do! Go on and get creative, you can’t live with “must do” and “have to do” every day of your life! It’s depressing, to say the least.
I make sure I get enough sunlight
Decreased sun exposure has been associated with a drop in serotonin that can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that is triggered by changing seasons. You’re more likely to experience SAD in the winter when the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Many of my friends who live in northern countries have experienced it. We don’t have such a problem in Greece but just to be on the safe side, make sure you get involved in outdoor activities. I usually try to get out on my windsurfing board but if I can’t I’ll go for a walk in the nearby area or downtown for a coffee out in the open. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t stay behind windows all winter!
I meet with friends
Bears may hibernate when it’s cold, but we humans aren’t meant to hide away all winter. And oh I love winter in this respect! I am totally the summer type and not at all a winter type; I’m also not the night-type, I neither drink or hang out in bars full of smoke (yes, smoking bans aren’t enforced in most bars and cafes in Athens and “going out” in winter is mostly a nightmare). That said, winter is the season that I can really spend time with my friends and loved ones! I very much enjoy my own company, especially when tucking under the blanket to watch a cool movie, but still, meeting up with my friends is the absolute mood lifter and the best way to spend an afternoon or evening when I don’t feel like being alone. I set aside some time every week for a “buddy moment,” whether that’s grabbing a quick coffee, hitting the movies or paying a nice visit and chatting with people I care about.
Try some of these tips and remember, life is what you make of it