With celebrities and influencers touting everything from crystals to meditation, it’s hard to know what falls under the wellness category, or if any of it is actually genuine.
But there is no denying that with all the hype, has come legitimate growth in the area of wellness, especially in winter, when there’s no better time to hunker down and start taking extra care with pampering products that cross the bridge between beauty and wellness.
BD recently caught up with The Natural Nutrition founder, Steph Lowe and TV presenter and former Miss World Australia, Erin Holland, to pick their brains about wellness; from what it is, what trends to expect this winter and their tips for combatting the ever-lingering winter blues.
What is wellness?
Before diving into the topic, it’s important to understand what wellness really is. The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.
According to the institute, it is not a passive or static state, but rather an “active pursuit” that is associated with intentions, choices and actions as we work toward an optimal state of health and wellbeing. It is linked to holistic health – that is, it extends beyond physical health and incorporates many different dimensions that should work in harmony.
Wellness is often confused with terms such as health, wellbeing and happiness. And while there are common elements among them, wellness is distinguished by not referring to a static state of being (i.e., being happy, in good health, or a state of wellbeing). Rather, it is associated with an active process of being aware and making choices that lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and wellbeing.
In other words, wellness involves making an active choice to look after ourselves (aka self-care). It’s important to take time out from other things (such as taking care of other people) to nurture what makes us feel good about ourselves.
While wellness is extremely important all year round, some extra attention is usually needed during the cooler months.
There’s always been a huge focus on winter wellness, according to Steph Lowe, as most people fall sick in winter. In turn, supporting their health at this time is a natural preventative measure.
The weather also plays a significant role in affecting our moods, which is where Season Affective Disorder (SAD) comes into play.
“SAD is associated with low sun exposure and low vitamin D levels, and it causes depressive like symptoms that most often disappear in spring and summer,” Lowe told BD. Symptoms include having low energy, overeating, craving carbohydrates and social withdrawal.
In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that one in every 10 people in the adult US population suffer from SAD. Those most prone include millennials and Generation Z, people with a family history, women, and people of colour (due to the disease being associated with vitamin D insufficiency).
Erin Holland is one person whose mood has been affected by the onset of winter. Born in Cairns where it is notoriously hot, Holland – a self-described nomad – has managed to avoid the bulk of winter in the past by chasing summer across the globe for work. Due to COVID-19 restrictions however, she is now stationed in Australia for the entirety of the year.
“When it's wet and cold, I find myself a little less motivated and a little more inclined to become a couch potato in front of the heater,” Holland said. “I have to force myself to get up and be active even more so during the winter months, as I never ever regret getting moving, and the endorphins are a huge mood booster.”
With a new season comes new wellness trends. And according to Lowe, 2020’s trends differ from last year’s due our current global COVID-19 circumstances.
Here’s what to look out for:
1. Vitamin C
“The biggest trend right now is absolutely vitamin C, due to the global pandemic and the increased awareness of the importance of supporting our immune system,” Lowe told BD. The body cannot make or store vitamin C and so it is important to consume an adequate amount daily through the diet.”
Melrose Essential C + Immune, for example, is a go-to supplement for daily support. Vitamin C helps to protect cells from oxidative stress, form collagen and cartilage to support healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and teeth, and increase iron absorption. The unique blend of vitamin C and health supporting ingredients including zinc, olive leaf extract, vitamin D and betaglucan work to support the immune health while helping to maintain optimum immune function.
2. Gut health
“There will be the continual trend of gut health, as 80% of our immune system is found here, so products like bone broth and collagen powder will continue to dominate," Lowe said.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that the gastrointestinal system has an even larger, more complex job than previously thought. In fact, it has also been linked to numerous aspects of health that seemingly have nothing to do with digestion, from emotional stress to immunity and chronic illnesses – including cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
Thus, the gut health trend has skyrocketed – and is apparently not slowing down any time soon. From capsules to powered supplements and everything in between, gut health is currently a huge player in the wellness space – particularly in winter.
3. Circadian rhythm health and the role of light in health and disease
Circadian rhythms are linked to the body’s internal clock and the sleep/wake cycle. They are important in determining natural sleeping and feeding patterns. Other important biological processes determined by this cycle include brain wave activity, cell regeneration and hormone production. If the circadian rhythm becomes out of whack, this could lead to slower thinking, weight gain, impulsivity and other physiological and behavioural changes.
So what causes a disruption to the circadian rhythm? Well, experts believe it is most commonly linked to jet lag, shift work, bright light and especially blue light (think computer, phone, tablet and TV screens).
Additionally, winter has a tendency to disrupt our natural rhythm, as depression caused by SAD can lead to sleeping during the day, thus throwing off regular sleep patterns at night. Winter days also become shorter, in turn making people feel like they need more sleep. This however is not true, with experts advising the biggest mistake one can make is ignoring their body’s natural rhythm.
Light therapy is an increasingly popular treatment used for those suffering from circadian rhythm sleep disorders. The goal for treatment is to combine a healthy sleep pattern with an internal clock that is set at the right time, which is where light therapy comes in. This treatment helps "reset" a disrupted clock by exposing the eyes to intense but safe amounts of light for specific, regular amounts of time. This stimulates specialised receptor cells that set the body clock.
And while light therapy is a great solution (with it also playing an increasingly important role in treating health and disease) sometimes we need a little extra help getting back on track, especially when experiencing insomnia.
Tips to combat the winter blues
It’s certainly no mean feat, but learning to manage wellness is achievable. Below are Lowe’s tips for combatting the winter blues:
- Exercise daily – even a short walk daily is a great way to naturally boost endorphins.
- Take a lunch break in the sun – even though the amount of vitamin D made from sunlight exposure in winter is relatively small, it can make all the difference to ensure that you still see the sun each day.
- Commit to a daily meditation practice – there are now thousands of studies that show meditation is extremely beneficial for our physical, emotional and mental health.
Combatting the winter blues can also be as simple as setting a good, achievable daily routine. Holland admitted she had not implemented any sort of regular health or fitness routine for the longest time, but living in lockdown-like conditions was the catalyst in creating a successful fitness and health journey.
“I am all about the routine, but it’s definitely harder to stick to it in the colder months,” she said. “To stay on-track, I kicked-off winter with this 28 Day Challenge where I start every day with a Berocca for both physical and mental energy. I’m about half-way through and am already feeling the benefits.”
Holland’s daily routine starts with a dog walk, a home workout, a healthy breakfast and a Berocca to keep her energy levels up. And while work is a little different in the current climate, she is working on a couple of projects that involve filming, shooting and answering emails. She then moves on to a nutritious, delicious lunch, before spending the remainder of her day finishing work, and getting some much-needed vitamin D and fresh air with another dog walk. Dinner is a healthy home-cooked meal, topped off with some couch time, a good skincare routine and an early night to help get the best sleep possible.
Why self-care matters
Tying in with the above, Holland also believes self-care greatly contributes to positive wellness. Because although she used to be someone who put herself last on the list of priorities, self-isolation has taught her the value of self-care, and how important it is to say no once in a while.
“Wellness for me encompasses both body and mind. When I am not looking after my body, I find I start to struggle mentally. Self care for me comes in many forms – it's exercising daily, nourishing my body with wholesome good foods, taking a few choice supplements for energy and mental sharpness, treating myself to the odd little beauty or skincare goodie, getting a blow-dry from my local salon, or simply having a relaxing bath to unwind my mind after a stressful day.”
Lowe agreed, stating that “self-care is essential to allow us to function at our best. Activities such as eating well, exercising and meditation all play significant roles in not only wellness, but optimal mental health and longevity.”
To finish it off, we really couldn’t discuss winter wellness without mentioning some skincare must-haves. After all, the drop in temperature brings more than just cosy clothes, unfortunately, as BD recently reported, uber-dehydrated, tight and flakey skin is soon to follow. And what better way of implementing self-care than setting a great skincare routine?
Try: Jergens Oil-infused Softening Vanilla Moisturiser, Sisley Black Rose Precious Face Oil, CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion PM, Saya Skincare Hand & Body Lotion – Mandarin + Patchouli, Clarins Extra Firming Neck and Décolleté, Essano Concentrated Serum Intense Hydration - Hyaluronic Acid, Sukin Naturals Deeply Hydrating Biodegradable Sheet Mask and Jurlique Softening Body Lotion Rose.