Winter is just around the corner, and so are all the blessings and challenges that come with it. While summer is a time to go out, expend energy, explore, meet new people and have new experience, winter calls us to go inward, nestle into the energy of stillness, reflect, while staying warm and connected to the ones we love. That is, of course, in an ideal world. But the reality of modern day living is that we are expected to continue expending vast amounts of energy at work and at home, while getting it all done in shorter and colder days. It is no wonder we get burned out, stop working out, turn to comfort foods, and find ourselves with the winter blues and a few extra pounds.

Winter can be magical, nourishing, fun, healthy and it can replenish and feed our soul. With the right intentions, preparations and practices, you can enjoy all this season has to offer, while staying vibrant and happy. Here are 5 natural ways to keep the weight off and to enjoy the winter months:

Nourish yourself – Winter is a time to nourish ourselves with hearty, vitamin and mineral rich foods and herbs. Traditional cultures around the world add adaptogenic herbs to their broths to build immunity and vitality. They also eat more fatty foods because having a little more fat on the body in the past could have made the difference for survival. We are in fact programmed to put on a little weight in the winter, and to shed it and detoxify in the spring. So channel your inner medicine woman as you nourish yourself this winter. Add dark greens to your daily diet. Make delicious soups and medicinal broths, by simmering astragalus, burdock and/or dandelion root with veggies. These medicinal roots strengthen the system, detoxify, nourish us, give us energy, and build our deep immunity. Sprinkle your foods and soups with dulse, kelp and other sea vegetables as well as fresh garlic, to boost surface immunity. Create new nourishing food staples for this winter. When you feel nourished and full, “comfort foods” will pale in comparison to the real comfort and nourishment you are already receiving.

Sweat it out – We are born to sweat. It is a wonderful way to release toxins, manage weight and keep our skin glowing. Get your sweat on with a great workout and you will burn calories, tone muscles, and get endorphins pumping in your system, which can melt away the winter blues. Try hot yoga and enjoy stretching in a heated room that feels like a beach on a summer day. You will leave feeling amazing and will see results in your waistline after only a few classes. If at the end of a long day, all you can do is lay there, then do it in a sauna. Simply laying in a steam or dry sauna will warm you to your core, relax your sore muscles, ease tension, and help you detoxify.

Enjoy the sweetness – If you are like me, winter is synonymous with chocolate. Tis the season of the sweet tooth. There is something about sweet and fatty foods that make us feel secure, warm and happy. Luckily, we can enjoy the sweetness and all of its benefits. All we need to do is stay away from the fake stuff, like the processed sugars. Commit to finding sweetness elsewhere this winter and you will watch the weight melt off. Agave and stevia are great alternatives, but my favorite trick is using Licorice Root powder. It is 50 times sweeter than sugar and has incredible medicinal properties. It is an antidepressant, hormone regulator (great for PMS!), it boosts immunity and is nourishing to the digestive system. When you need something divinely delicious, make my chocolate drink of the Goddess: Heat up some coconut, hemp or almond milk, add a little coconut oil or butter, raw cacao powder, cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne for digestive heat and a pinch of licorice root for sweetness and medicine. Curl up on the couch under a blanket and enjoy the love and sweetness!

Find the sunshine – Being in the dark is depressing. We all need sunshine and some of us are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder when we don’t get enough of the yellow rays. Get outside as much as possible, even if it is for a short, brisk walk. If it is snowy where you live, try snowshoeing or cross country skiing. You will get a great workout, connect to nature, and come home with rosy cheeks, energized and rejuvenated. Learn from children who play outside in the winter to stay joyful, energized and happy!

Create new cozy rituals – Reflect on what bad habits emerge in the winter and what triggers them. Do you go for a box of cookies when you feel lonely? Do you watch too much TV instead of getting some exercise? With mindfulness and intention, we can create new cozy rituals that meet our needs in healthy ways. If you know you crave connection, schedule a weekly pampering night with your friends where you try some at home beauty recipes for face masks, foot soaks, etc. If holiday parties tempt you with junk food, bring something delicious you can share and enjoy. Find time to soak in a hot bath, curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, journal and dream into the new year. Love yourself up, be gentle and forgiving, and find new ways to nourish yourself. Remember that winter is a time to slow down, recharge, reflect and connect to self and others.

Enjoy this magical season and share your wisdom with us! What are some new winter rituals you are putting into practice this season? How do you stay healthy and happy in the cold months?

Written By, AHWD Wellness Expert – Marysia Miernowska