Family, Health, Mental Health, Wisdom

Easy Ways to Boost Mood, Stay Active, & Be Healthy in Long Winters

We all know we are supposed to practice self-care but what does that even mean when the days are cold and you don’t feel like doing anything besides snuggling under a blanket watching your favorite TV show?

If you also struggle to make healthy choices and keeping your body moving during the winter this post is for you. My strategy was to make healthy habits that are easy to stick with, don’t take up a lot of time, and don’t require Herculean will-power to get yourself to do them. My other strategy is stress-management because if you take care of the body and you decrease the stress it’s a whole lot easier to feel happy!

Read on for easy ways to feel better and take care of the one and only you you’ve got!

Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamp – UV-Free LED Happy Mood Lamps – Full Spectrum Sun Lights 

First on the list is a light that is used for SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. We have big door windows in our living room and sometimes we still don’t get enough light when it’s overcast for weeks on end. We do go outside on nice days but sunlight is still limited because of school being a daytime activity and the sun going down around 4.

Now the sun is setting around 5:30 which is better but still not great. I bought this lamp to help me with seasonal depression and feeling tired all the time. I also thought it might help Billy who has the worst insomnia I have ever seen. I was hoping he could use the light to reset circadian rhythms but it is too bright for him in the morning and he doesn’t use it often.

That’s ok, not every product is for everyone! I still love my lamp and it’s part of my wake up routine. I drink my coffee, and use my sun lamp while I write my morning pages in my planner (where everyone else writes to-do lists).

Funny enough my calamondin citrus tree is my sun lamp buddy and when I am done with my routine I turn my sun lamp onto my little tree and then I start my work for the day. It not only boosts my happiness but it gets my tree a little extra “sunlight” too.

Next on my list is a way to help with weight gain around the middle, cramps, digestive issues, and back pain from your lower back and hips getting too tight. No it’s not some obscure super expensive tool, or procedure, it’s an upgraded kids toy!

Sports Hoop Weighted Hoop, Weight Loss Power Hoop

So movement is part of staying happy and healthy but it can feel like such a momentous thing to get up and move, but once you start moving you usually feel so much better! I realized that standing outside watching the kids was an opportunity for exercise that I was missing. I really don’t love exercise in general and prefer activities that feel like playing.

I love dancing but I wasn’t doing a lot of that these days either. Finding a weighted sports hoop was such a fun addition to my routine! Since it’s weighted it’s easier to hula hoop, I know because I couldn’t ever make cheaper hula hoops work and believe me, I tried, over and over…

Thank goodness weighted hoops are so easy to use! They are great exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Pro tip: When you are learning how to use your sports hoop wear some boots that cover your ankles. My own hoop is heavy and has hard plastic bumps on the inside.

While I was learning when I dropped my hoop it would bruise my bony ankles, until I started wearing my boots! Boots will definitely save you some ankle pain while you are learning and dropping your hoop more often.

Sports hoops target abs (a trouble area for many) plus hip circles are an especially wonderful exercise for women and help with all sorts of things from monthly cramps to digestive issues.

I really love my hoop and if I pick it up I will play music and usually hoop for much longer than the 2 minute daily suggestion. I still don’t hoop everyday. Sometimes I build a snowman with the kids or kick a soccer ball around with them.

GlowCity Light Up LED Soccer Ball Blazing Red Edition|Glows in The Dark

I usually don’t feel very active when I take the kids outside, especially in the colder weather, but my son knows how to get me moving. I won’t throw football with him right now as the toddler is distracting, my son doesn’t tend to stop throwing when I am not looking, and I hate getting hit in the face.

He knows that I am usually down to kick around a soccer ball though and it’s an activity that both my youngest who is 2 and my oldest who is 11 have fun doing too. We start pretty slow and somehow end up running around and giggling so I try to keep a soccer ball around.

One that glows has a special appeal and the fun and games don’t have to stop even during the season where the sun goes down super early. I wouldn’t leave your ball outside in the cold though if you want it to last through the winter.

So after you are sore from kicking balls around you might want to cozy up in this sauna blanket. For days where you are struggling to get warm from the cold this Sauna blanket is the best!

Vanell Sauna Blanket Infrared, Upgraded Heat Far Infrared Blanket Digital Body Sauna Heating

Infrared is said to be great for healing inflammation which is why we originally got it. I love it because it’s a sauna I can hide under my couch and it’s basically a full body heating pad! I laughed my butt off when I got this blanket because the instructions called it the de-fatting blanket!

On days where I am struggling to get warm this is a super relaxing way to spend 30 minutes. You can personalize the time and the temperature but I usually choose to sweat. Sweating is good for many (those without serious health issues) and raising body temperature is said to help the body kill off some nasty viruses, and as your body tries to cool itself down it also burns fat! Win win!

CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING A SAUNA!

If saunas aren’t recommended because of health issues maybe a warm bath would be a better choice for you.

Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Soak, Calm Your Mind is my new favorite bath soak epsom salt and my favorite way to get more magnesium into my body. Magnesium promotes sleep and relaxation which is great for your mental state, and sore muscles and joints, and raising your magnesium level can help reduce headaches too!

Bathing is a very relaxing activity and paired with epsom salt it can be very healing. I also like to add this bubble bath to the tub too for some skin soothing benefits and because I love the smell.

Sheamoisture Superfruit Complex Bubble Bath & Body Wash

When you put epsom salt in your bubble bath you don’t get many bubbles but this bubble bath is so moisturizing I still like to add it for the skin benefits even if I don’t get as many bubbles.

Now both of these products are very scented which could be a problem for some. I haven’t had any sinus issues or skin issues with either of these, and my toddler with occasional eczema uses this combo without any issues either.

With any new products it’s always a good idea to try them one at a time and use a little instead of a lot when starting out. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Can you tell we have to be careful about what products we use in our house? Funny enough fabric softener and hand soaps seem to be the thing that causes most skin issues at our house. We cut out the fabric softener and usually have 2 choices of hand soap available at the sink when introducing new hand soaps to help minimize skin issues.

Back to the subject of happy and healthy! Being hangry with blood sugar spikes and dives is a recipe for a bad mood and will crush your motivation. I am not great at eating enough protein and I am totally aware of that. This protein shake is my easy way to feel better and fill some of my nutritional gaps.

Integrated Supplements Whey Isolate Protein, Premium Flavor Chocolate

This isn’t the only protein shake I buy but this one is my favorite. It tastes delicious, is not sweetened with aspartame, and that makes it easy for me to drink. It’s an convenient way to increase my protein and I drink it early in the day to keep from getting hangry, having blood sugar crashes, and to help curb carb cravings.

I make drinking my protein shake easier by having a few of these blender bottles at my house, and extra for when the kids steal them.

BlenderBottle Shaker Bottle Pro Series Perfect for Protein Shakes and Pre Workout

This blender bottle is good to make our protein shakes but the kids and I also use them to carry water with us too. They are so much easier to clean that a lot of the water bottles with the narrower openings, and the dishwasher does a great job with these where the narrower mouthed bottles seem to get funky.

I love items that can be used for multiple things! It never fails that the kids will put lemonade or chocolate milk in a take-a-long cup and while we have ruined other water bottles that way, these stand tough! They also encourage us to take drinks along, drink more water, and it’s a “step up” and cheaper than single use plastic bottles.

I just want to mention that drinking water helps you feel better! I know many people don’t feel thirsty during the winter and that makes it tough to drink enough water.

If you aren’t drinking enough consider ways to make it easier to drink more. I have made chugging water a few times a day part of my routine and that helps me keep more hydrated without having to think about it too much.

Another issue I was having was that I don’t get enough greens in my diet during the winter. During the summer we eat salad several times a week, and we also harvest things right out of the garden, and grill mushrooms and veggies often. In the winter the most veggies we get is when I make vegetable soup once a month.

I knew I needed more green in my diet but smoothies seemed like too much work and it’s more expensive during the winter season too. I decided drinking my greens early in the day was the easiest way to guarantee that I got more veggies into my daily diet.

Amazing Grass Green Superfood: Super Greens Powder with Spirulina, Chlorella, Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics

This doesn’t have a lot of sweetener, has digestive enzymes, and has pre- and pro-biotics. This one product has so many good things in one container! You could easily spend a fortune buying digestive enzymes, probiotics, and supplements separately at the health store so it was exciting for me to find this one product that had them all.

With any new supplement I always start with a small amount for a few days and work up to the recommended amount. This way you can discover any sensitivities or allergies without having taken a full amount. This product has algae in it which not everyone has tried before so be cautious when trying this for the first time and as with all supplements, check with your doctor!

I don’t have any trouble drinking this product with straight water, and I like that it encourages me to drink more water. I find the flavor to be on the sweet side but for those of you who didn’t grow up chewing on cereal grasses the flavor my be “gross” lol. My son thinks it’s disgusting but I’m going to let him try the berry flavor soon and see if he likes that better.

I prefer the original flavor personally but I’m a salt person and my son is a sweetie kid. I drink my greens while I make coffee in the morning, then I add more water to my empty greens cup and chug that too. Like I said, I schedule in those water breaks and other things I struggle to get done so that my daily routine supports my health. These days I am scheduling in my yoga too and it has been helping a lot!

Yes I can hear you groaning about someone else talking about yoga but I am no clean eating vegan trying to get you to change your spiritual beliefs. I do however encourage activity because long-time body imbalances turn into injuries and can wreak all kinds of havoc in the body.

I know yoga is good for me but talking myself into doing it regularly has been a hurdle I’ve come up against a million times. These days I set my goal of being active 4 days a week and since we don’t get outside as much during the winter my activity for the week is yoga on most of those days. I did go swimming recently and I counted that as a activity, and I built a snowman with the kids and I counted that too.

Even though being active makes me feel better it wasn’t enough to keep me motivated to continue to do my 4 body moving activities a week. Since I know this about myself I am now using my planner yet again to encourage me to behave better. No I don’t schedule exercise on specific days because I would get upset with myself for not doing it then. If I do my exercise though I give myself a sticker on my planner calendar!

It’s easy to see if I am accomplishing my goal that way and surprisingly I have been hitting my goal since my 2nd week. The 1st week I only got 3 stickers and that was disappointing because I could see I didn’t hit my goal. It seems silly to exercise to earn a sticker but we have made that part of the fun. I tell Billy to remind me to do my exercise so I can earn my sticker, we joke about it, and he reminds me if everything gets busy and I forget.

Feel free to judge me for being a big kid but I like stickers and who can blame me growing up with all those colorful Lisa Frank products?! If earning a sticker works who cares if it’s silly. Have you ever heard the old saying, “If it works, don’t knock it?”

So now that I have talked myself into exercising regularly I wanted to get all the items I needed to make yoga easy, no more substituting tupperwear for blocks or pausing to look for a belt to do that yoga move!

2 Yoga Blocks and Strap Set with Elastic Resistance Bands Yoga Starter Kit

This yoga kit comes with almost all of the gear you need to support an un-flexible beginner and then this same gear is used to make yoga poses more challenging when you get to that point. You don’t grow out of these items, and even if you prefer other exercise to yoga, stretching is still recommended for avoiding injuries. These items are multi-purpose and a great and inexpensive addition to any “home gym”.

I inherited a bad back from my dad’s side and in my teens I had a choice to do physical therapy or yoga to keep a disc from slipping out of place and causing a domino effect.

I found that doing yoga, even irregularly, helped me correct a ton of imbalances, compression, and muscles spasms earned from sitting, lifting, scrubbing, building, painting, and basically any type of work or hobby you choose to do.

It’s not always easy to get motivated but I am doing better. My kids were also in need of some relaxing activities and encouragement too as we don’t get outside much during this corona-y winter season. Sometimes they do yoga with me and sometimes I put on Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube to encourage them to move and relax too.

If you don’t already have a yoga mat or you are wanting something that will get your kids involved and excited about hitting the mat, check out this yoga / hopscotch matt I designed on Zazzle. As you know I love items that will serve more than one purpose and this can be used for yoga or for playing different hopscotch games on days where it’s hard to get outside.

Speaking of items that serve more than one purpose in order to make exercise easier in my crazy full-to-brimming day, I wanted a wardrobe that would be comfy, easy to workout in, and nice enough that I didn’t feel like I was wearing PJ’s to the store again. I had been looking at dress yoga pants by Beta brand for over a year now but was afraid they’d be too short on me and I didn’t want the hassle of trying to return them especially since they were pretty expensive.

Cue Yogipace yoga dress pants on Amazon! These pants are awesome!

Yogipace,Belt Loops,Women’s Petite/Regular/Tall Straight Leg Yoga Dress Pants

They are my new favorite because they can be ordered in specific lengths. The 35″ were too long for me and I am 5’9″ and I could have ordered them even longer! These have both front and back pockets that can fit a Galaxy S10 phone!

They are comfy like yoga pants but look like regular pants! I can feel good about going out in public in my new pants and I don’t have to change to play on the floor with the kids, do my yoga, or whatever other exercise I decide to do that day.

Did I mention that the Yogipace pants are half the price of Beta Brand? I love having pants that are long enough, and not having to search for pants that fit when I am feeling bloated. These yoga dress pants are the best and I highly recommend you try them. They make coming home from work (or wherever) and doing your exercise activities so easy!

My Favorite Yoga Programs To Date

So if you decided you need a little yoga in your life I recommend checking out Bad Yogi. She is down to earth and won’t make you question whether you were just at an exercise class or a hippy church..

I started her 21 day yoga habit series, the ones that are free on youtube right now. I figured if I got through the free ones my reward would be buying a subscription to her website. I did it this way because I knew if I just bought it straight out there was a chance I’d never use it.

Since I made myself work to earn the purchase, I feel more excited about getting a subscription to my favorite yoga teacher’s classes. No I don’t get paid to promote her, I just like her classes because her workouts are well balanced.

When I am done I feel like I worked my muscles, but I don’t leave with terrible spasms in my shoulders and neck, or feeling like I can’t walk down a flight of stairs. I just feel relaxed and it’s easy to move, which makes everything else I have to do in life a lot easier!

If you don’t like subscriptions you might like this DVD program from Gaiam with Suzanne Deason. I enjoy her exercise programs that are gentle on joints because they still tone those deep muscles and I always feel a million times more relaxed after I do one of her routines.

I love that stress management is a main focus of her programs for weight loss. We have all heard that stress hormones hold onto weight but many still totally ignore relaxation when they start a wellness routine.

If you have ever wondered why that super intensive workout just isn’t melting off the body fat I suggest adding a gentle exercise and relaxation practice into your weekly workout routine to see if it helps. Also don’t overlook the importance of sleep (which if you struggle with sleep this type of program could help you address that too). This DVD below was the first yoga program that changed my life!

The poses in this specific program helped me relieve my sciatica pain. Apparently everyone else loved this DVD program too and now it’s hard to find at a reasonable price.

The big bonus to adding yoga to your routine is that it also helps correct body imbalances and strengthens weak muscles you didn’t even know you had. Gaiam on youtube has many free programs for you to try so you can see which instructors you enjoy.

Pro tip: If certain poses seem too easy you one possibility is that you are supposed to be concentrating on breath and being in the moment which is a relaxation technique. The other possibility is that you ignored and collapsed a muscle group and you may not be doing the pose correctly. I try to be totally aware of my posture in every pose and I find the relaxation and toning benefits of yoga to be well worth my effort!

The part I most struggle with is keeping organized and getting out the things to do my daily yoga routine. In an effort to make this easier I wanted a bag that would house my mat, blocks, straps, ball, and whatever else I needed. These were the 2 options I liked best!

Aozora Yoga Mat Bag Large Yoga Mat Tote Sling Carrier with Pockets

I love this huge bag and it has elephants! Not only does it make getting yoga gear out simple but I might even borrow this bag to carry sleeping bags and pillows when we go on overnights. I love items that serve more than one purpose. I think I’ve said this before…

I also loved the Aurorae Yoga Multi Purpose Backpack because it’s more hands-free, you can walk through a crowd, go hiking, and what I wanted it for was taking my gear along when the kids and I biked to the park.

We do get a few warm-ish days in winter, where you can be out in a heavy sweatshirt, where this would be super useful. I know I would also use this backpack a ton in the other seasons when we practically live at the park.

We have an old park by our house that no one seems to use anymore since they built a new park. Since it’s basically a private park I can do yoga by myself (or with the kids) without being stared at. I plan to bring my mat along and do some yoga on the days we go and spend a few hours playing in the sun.

Riding my bike while the kids play on the playground equipment only works if my toddler wants to ride in her bicycle buggy.

Yoga is an exercise I can do while keeping a closer eye on the kiddos playing on playground equipment, and it beats sitting on a hard bench scrolling the internet, or walking around in circles the whole time.

Did I mentioned how much I love riding my bike? We obviously ride more when it’s not snowing but we still ride on nicer days in the winter.

Riding bikes doesn’t really feel like exercise until I have to pedal up a big hill! Fortunately the ride away from my house is downhill so it’s the ride back that ends up being brutal. This makes it easy for my mind to be excited about hopping on my bike and getting out of the house for awhile.

The kids love riding bikes too! Nothing encourages exercise more than kids begging you to get out of the house for some exercise, I mean fun! (They don’t realize it’s exercise either, shhhhhh). There aren’t many activities we can do as a family where there isn’t a ton of arguing because my kids are at “that age”.

When the weather is decent biking is an awesome way to spend time outside and we feel so relaxed afterward! I like bikes with lots of gears because it makes going up hills so much more tolerable!

Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike for Men and Women, 21 Speed

If your storage space is limited, your winter’s are worse than ours, your location isn’t great for riding outside, or you aren’t great at balancing a bike, a compact stationary bike might be a great choice for you!

Exercise Bike Stationary Bike Foldable Magnetic Portable Fitness Cycle with Arm Resistance Bands

One family member just got this bike and I think my brother is wanting something like this too. It folds away into a closet which is super convenient if your space is limited. It also has a space that you can place a tablet for work, reading, or watching a show.

Billy and I both wanted different exercise machines and only had storage space for one so we settled on a 3 in 1 similar to this one below.

Body Power 3-in-1 Exercise Machine, Trio Trainer, Elliptical and Upright/Recumbent Bike

I wanted an elliptical and Billy wanted a stationary bike. This was a great in between and we were able to buy one piece of equipment instead of 2! It does not store in a closet though so if you don’t want to keep your exercise gear out all the time the stationary bike might be a better choice. I knew if I had to get something out of a closet though I was unlikely to use it, so having our machine out all the time is helpful for me.

In seasons where I use our elliptical I pick a favorite TV show and only let myself watch it while I am working out on the machine. This is surprisingly motivating, especially with shows where it’s super dramatic and you really want to see what is going to happen next!

The elliptical is pretty easy to use and easy on joints but for me it’s not as relaxing as yoga or riding a bike outside. If you are looking for other ways to relax the oculus might be just what you are looking for.

Virtual reality may seem like an unusual choice but VR is so versatile that you’d be surprised at how many ways this can be used for both exercise and to boost your mood. That being said choose carefully what activities you do on your Oculus Quest 2 — Advanced All-In-One Virtual Reality Headset because not all the applications will boost happiness or increase your activity level.

My favorite things to do on our oculus is to play Beat Saber and meditate using the Tripp app.

Beat Saber is ridiculously fun and will make you sweat as you try to break blocks with your light saber to dance music. It’s like they took a dance game, cosplay, and rock band and smushed them together into one awesomely fun game. It’s a great way to get some activity and it’s fun so you won’t avoid it like it’s work!

The Tripp app is a meditation and relaxation app with calming music and beautiful visuals. It has a free demo and then if you get the paid version it customizes a program to help you to deepen your relaxation practice. Since the kids and I share the program I can’t speak to how much the personalization works to improve the routine but we all love using it and do feel more relaxed afterward.

The other thing I like about the Tripp app is that it teaches you to be aware of your mood before and after using their app. This is great practice for any activity as it will teach you about yourself and what you enjoy doing most. When you enjoy healthy activities it doesn’t seem so hard to do them. I know I like to do fun activities more often than unfun activities that I do just because “they are good for me”. When you choose to do fun healthy activities this leads to more energy and health!

Last but not least on my list is my Aerial Yoga Hammock which I love for both relaxation and exercise. I saved it for last because I learned from talking to my friends that many are intimidated by an aerial hammock.

Aerial Yoga Hammock Aerial Pilates Silk Yoga Swing Set

I’m hear to say it doesn’t have to be scary and the weight limits on many of these are in the thousands of pounds so hammocks are more versatile than most people think. I actually use my hammock more for relaxation these days and to swing my cranky toddler into a better mood.

**Check with your physician, supervise others, have someone around when you are using this, and use at your own risk!** This is a suspended piece of fabric and when used properly it is wonderful but if you or your kids misuse it it can be dangerous, so get educated!

Why do kids love swing? Who knows but I am here to tell you it works for adults too so don’t knock it before you try it. I didn’t even think about this replacing the infant swing that my daughter had just grown out of, that was just a happy accident. It’s nice to have the hammock because it’s another fun and relaxing place to spend time or take a nap. I am 5’9″ and I can fully hide in this hammock with my legs extended and my arms stretched above my head.

Other hammocks are only good for relaxing and won’t encourage exercise. Plus most hammocks are only used when the weather is good outside. Unless you put a ceiling mount in your house and then you can hang different hammocks depending on if you want to chill watching TV, meditate and take a nap, or exercise and hang upside-down in your yoga hammock.

This hammock below is our favorite TV watching hammock and might be more your style if you need more relaxation and a yoga hammock seems too “out there” for you.

We hang this hammock in our living room and outside on one of our trees depending on the weather. It’s a nice place to read, rest, relax, and also encourage kids to nap.

It’s not always an easy thing to install hammocks in your house but it is so worth that effort. If you are renting or want to use your hammock outdoors and don’t have trees, a trapeze stand set-up might be best for you. This Happybuy Yoga Sling and Frame comes with everything you need to try out a yoga hammock and is an easy way to try out a yoga hammock if you don’t have any aerial studios nearby.

Everyone in my house loves “hiding” in the silky hammocks. They can be used to relax, to exercise, and to perform supported inversions (where you hang upside down). These are great for back pain as certain inversions create space between vertebrae and can help reduce pain from pinched nerves and other issues created by compression. I am not an expert so check with your own health professionals before trying this!

Having a yoga hammock has been great fun for us and it does help my back and shoulders to be more relaxed. We considered buying an inversion table for a long time but couldn’t figure out where to store it. The yoga hammock stores better for us because we have high ceilings and we can just tie it up high to keep it out of the way.

There are also silks if you are interested in aerial arts but after trying my hammock I know I still don’t have the arm strength to use the silks even after using my hammock irregularly for months now.

I definitely chose right when I purchased my yoga hammock because you can use it to build strength for the silks and you can use it for meditation (napping) and to make “out of reach” yoga poses easier until you build the strength to do them independently. Later you can do yoga poses on your hammock that may be more challenging than traditional yoga poses. It’s definitely a tool that is useful for both beginners and pros.

Definitely pay close attention when you are purchasing because if you are looking for a hammock and purchase silks by mistake it wouldn’t be the relaxing experience you expected.

My favorite thing about my yoga hammock is that it doesn’t seem like a chore to get started because it is so relaxing. I can rest for a few minutes and then move into some stretches. I’ll generally even do more exercises than I expect once I’m there because once you are stretched out it feels good to work your muscles.

The yoga hammock is a great way to “trick yourself” into some exercise and if you have had a hard day it’s a great space to hide, relax, and maybe even take a little snooze.

Wrap Up

I enjoy trying to discover new ways to be happier because I struggled a lot with depression in my younger years. Anxiety and depression seems to run in my family too so it’s useful to have new information to chat about when times get tough.

Getting regular exercise helps me to manage anxiety more than I’d like to admit and I find that when it’s cold and the sun goes down early it’s easy to get sluggish, depressed, and stuck in a bad rut.

I thought it might help others to share some of my favorite winter activities and ways I encourage, trick, and propel myself to do the things to keep me in a good place.

I hope that some of these strategies will help you manage bad mood bugs and help to keep the crazy at bay! If you have any favorite activities or easy tips for staying healthy please share!

Thanks for reading with me today!

Kat @CraftingGlow

Please share and pin to health, mental health, and exercise boards. Thanks!

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