By Angie Chandler, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, FLT-vLE
As we say our goodbyes to warm outdoor fun in the beautiful Michigan sun, it is time to shift our thoughts toward ways to make the winter months and being indoors a positive experience. Use this Autumn transition time to shift your thoughts toward reinventing your space into an uplifting and inspiring place that you will be happy to spend more time in.
Slowing down and tapping back into nature and our five senses is a perfect place to begin. Perceptual systems, particularly smell, connect with memory and emotions. For sustainable positive or pleasant emotions this winter — explore ways to please our five senses to nurture our mind, body and spirt.
What you see can greatly impact how you feel, so it’s important to invest in your space to make it look joyful.
- Start with sunlight: We need a dose of natural daylight every single day to stay healthy. Find ways to incorporate more sunlight into your home using curtains, mirrors and more. Bring light to other parts of your home with lights and lamps that give a boost to natural daylight, or by stringing lights around the room or on windows. This winter, consider trying a Himalayan Salt Lamp or Sun Lamp to bring extra light indoors.
- Play with plants: Keep happiness in view by adding more greenery to your home. Having live plants in your space has proven health benefits. Consider adding some easy-to-care-for succulents to your home office or starting a small herb garden in your kitchen window.
- Keep it clean: Making an effort to ensure your space is clean and organized can help you feel more calm and joyful.
Music, laughter, car honks — all reach the ears as sound waves in the air. However, each could be perceived differently. Fill your space with music and sounds that make you feel happy.
- Make it happen with music: Find ways to incorporate music throughout your day. Listening to music is proven to have certain health benefits and can greatly improve your mood.
- Start your day out right: Consider beginning the day with an alarm clock that offers soothing, gentle ringtones rather than a loud frightening sound that startles you out of bed. How we wake up can impact the rest of the day.
- Embrace the sounds around you: Depending on where you live, you might be surrounded by sounds of neighbors, traffic, animals, or silence. Embrace the sounds you hear every day to shift your mindset and find joy in everyday places.
- Try a sound machine. If there are sounds around that you wish could tune out, try a machine that allows to choose soothing water or nature sounds, or white or brown noise. There are also several sound apps you can download for free on your phone.
Create an air of happiness in your home this season through your nose.
- Essential oils: Add some soothing smells to your space with an essential oil diffuser, or find other ways to incorporate them into your home. Changing the furnace filter one time per month is highly recommended to keep your indoor air clean. But changing it and adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil turns clean air into a joyful, soothing experience to make your whole house smell amazing. Combine oils to create your own fragrance, like lavender and eucalyptus or sandalwood and rose. Try using seasonal scents, like cinnamon or balsam, during the holidays.
- Candles: Another way to add calming scents to your space. Find fun holiday scents to help you get in a festive mood and find joy in this season, even if it looks different this year.
- Cleaning products: Consider switching up the scents you use to clean your home. White Tea & Fig sanitizing countertop spray is my favorite way to clean this fall. It fights germs and makes me feel happy all at once.
Depending on your mood and lifestyle goals, planning for tastes of winter will be delightful. Nurture your taste buds and emotions with well-planned meals, snacks — or a treat now and then for a happy winter.
- Cook local: Add variety with local produce. Looking for what veggies are in-season to inspire your inner chef? Check out our Veggie Tales series.
- Tea time: Wind down after a long day with a hot mug of tea. It has many health benefits and can help with everything from falling asleep to treating a sore throat.
- Healthy Holiday treats: Make some holiday goodies that are also good for you to add happiness to the winter season. My favorite go-to are these dark chocolate, almond butter, puffed quinoa and pumpkin seed cups.
Touch is very important to our wellbeing as humans; no wonder it is one of many peoples first or second priority of the five Love Languages, and can play a big role in making your home happier.
- Soften your sofa: Consider adding an extra soft blanket or fuzzy pillow to your living room décor to make your sofa surfing extra cozy.
- Weight it out: Weighted blankets are known to be great for relaxation. Consider trying one out to see how it makes you feel — try one for couch time or bedtime.
- Snuggle: Small touches can go a long way to boost your mood, even if it’s as small as scratching your pet’s ears or holding your partner’s hand.
- Treat yourself: If you’re feeling extra stressed, treat yourself to a massage — either at home with a DIY handheld or chair pad option, or by making an appointment with a professional for a massage or pedicure. This holiday season, spa gifts may be extra appreciated during such a stressful year.
Mind, Body, Spirit
Now that you’ve created a space that inspires happiness through your five senses, you can explore ideas for nourishing your body, mind and spirit this winter.
- Focus on mental health: Many people experience seasonal mood changes as the weather changes and days become shorter. Be sure to focus on your mental health and find resources, such as apps like Headspace, to help you through the winter blues. Priority Health has a variety of resources available to members, as does the state of Michigan.
- Crack a book: Reading is a great way to feed your brain, stimulate neural pathways, and enjoy a new story or learn something new. Not to mention, nothing beats curling up with a soft blanket and a good book on a cold day!
- Learn something new: Use this winter as an opportunity to learn a new skill or try a new hobby. Whether you explore outdoor winter activities or take on knitting or baking, learning something new will give you something to look forward to and stimulate your brain.
- Physical activity: Exercise is incredibly important for both physical and mental health. To prepare my home for a happy winter, I invested in a treadmill for my basement. The price was right and just knowing the health benefits of a walk each day made it worth the investment for a life-giving space in my house. Find ways to stay active this winter; even if you don’t have any equipment, there are many apps and online resources to help you work out at home.
- Sleep: A healthy sleep schedule can play a big role in overall health. As days get shorter and it becomes darker sooner, you may find yourself becoming tired earlier. Instead of forcing yourself to stay up to a certain time, consider hitting the hay earlier if you are able. The extra z’s could help improve your mood and get your body and mind ready for the next day. After all, many mammals hibernate in the winter!
- Celebrate: Spend extra time celebrating the happy things in your life this winter. Whether you celebrate the end of a long work or school week with a special treat or decide to put your Christmas tree up early, be sure to spend extra time recognizing and enjoying the good stuff.
- Keep a gratitude journal: Sometimes it can be difficult to find things top be thankful for, especially in 2020. Be more mindful about recognizing your blessings by taking time to write it down each day. Get started with a 30 day challenge.
- Spend time with others: Though it can be difficult to spend time with loved ones while social distancing, try to spend quality time with loved ones to bolster your spirit; whether it be screen-free time with your children or partner, or a virtual hang out with friends.
However you choose to prep your home and self for the winter months, remember that all seasons change, and spring will be here before you know it.
About the Author: Angela Chandler, NBC-HWC, NASM-CPT, FLT-vLE is a health coach in Priority Health’s Wellness Department and has been a ThinkHealth byline author for 5 years. She holds the 2017 National Board-certification for Health and Wellness Coaches and has worked as a wellcoaches®-certified Health and Wellness professional coach for 8 years. Angie has been a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer for 25 years, and a Firstline Therapy®-lifestyle educator for 8 years. Her professional experiences continue to fuel her passion for writing health and wellness content. Prior to Priority Health, she worked at EHAC, The MAC, and CHCC in Grand Rapids. Angie partners with people in a positive, respectful, non-judgmental and playful way that brings out their best and generates inspiration.