I have a confession to make: I don’t do cold. The only thing I enjoy about winter is the opportunity to wear my Isabel Marant sleeping bag coat. But even that doesn’t make up for the wet, cold feet, ruined suede shoes, wind-damaged skin and icy cold mornings.
SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a recognised psychological condition. Even if the black clouds outside don’t always suit your mood it’s certainly much harder for the heart to sing when the sun’s not shining. On dark, cold days my mood is noticeably lower, my ability to troubleshoot and deal with stress is impaired and subsequently I leave myself wide open to the inevitable winter bugs, which serve only to make me more miserable.
Realising the importance of a self-care practice to combat the cold and nourish the soul goes a long way towards improving your physical and mental health during the winter months.
1. Flotation tanks
Float your winter woes away. The flotation tanks at Float Culture in Grafton contain 500kg of Epsom salts, making them twice the density of the Dead Sea and rich in magnesium. Floating is the ultimate unplug; cocooned in a dark pod floating effortlessly in warm water you have no choice but to enjoy a deep, meditative state. The increased relaxation and deep peace you find will help promote an overall sense of wellbeing, which can in turn improve your natural immunity.
• $100 per 90 minute session, floatculture.co.nz
2. Palm Springs, Parakai
The sleepy kitsch cousin to the madhouse of Parakai Springs, Palm Springs taps into the natural geothermal springs of the area to fill its pools (ranging from 36 to 40C) with mineral-rich, deliciously hot water. The perfect soak for cold winter bones, it makes for a great romantic getaway or spot of family fun when cabin fever starts to creep in.
3. Infrared Sauna
Infrared saunas work slightly differently to the traditional model, by heating you from the inside out. Sort of like a microwave minus the nasty radiation. The result is said to be an increase in cellular regeneration, making it a super-boost for your immune system and metabolism. It's also ultra-detoxifying; sweat out the winter sniffles with a bonus of beautiful soft, clear skin. Plus, as with most sauna-style experiences, it will promote a sense of calm and wellbeing that should ensure a good night's sleep.
• Available from spas including the Wellness Centre, Tonic Spa and Mauri Ora Wellness.
4. Stone Spa at Bliss Reflexology
The only Japanese stone spa in the country, the Ganbanyoku at Bliss is similar to an infrared sauna in that it heats from your core out. The difference here is that you're lying on top of deliciously hot magma rock, which flushes out toxins and alleviates SAD. Much like a traditional bathhouse, you're all bunking down together, there's plenty of personal space and pyjamas are provided, but beware if you're near a snorer. Shut your eyes, spread out and imagine yourself on the beach in Fiji.
• $60 for a 60-minute treatment, $45 for 45 minutes, stonespa.co.nz
5. The tri-bathing facilities at Chuan Spa
Everything is luxurious at Chuan Spa but it's worth booking even the most innocuous of treatments just for a chance to hang in its spa area. The tri-bathing area consists of a "snail" shower, with jets that massage, a herbal steam room, jacuzzi and an ice bath. The alternations between hot and cold are designed to balance your energy, stimulate your immune system and increase circulation. At the very least, a luxury experience such as this will serve to combat seasonal blues. Book in with a friend if winter hibernation is starting to make you feel isolated from the world.
• Entry included with any other treatment booked, chuanspa.co.nz
6. The seafood miso nabe (hot pot) at Janken
Warm the cockles (or should that be scallops) of your stomach with a piping-hot hot pot. The fermented miso broth is chock-full of beneficial micro-organisms to promote gut health, the bountiful organic produce will put a skip in your step and the salmon will load you up on lovely omega 3s that will feed the skin (and brain) despite the extremities
• Janken, 158 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay.
7. Matcha latte at Little Bird
Voted one of the biggest health food trends in 2015 by the Sydney Morning Herald, matcha is a finely milled green tea which dissolves completely in liquid so you end up consuming the whole tea, not just water soaked from the leaves. It's loaded full of antioxidants (including catechins, which are said to provide potent cancer-fighting properties) and some suggest it increases your metabolism and improves concentration. Warm yourself up with a matcha latte made with Little Bird's housemade cashew and macadamia milk.
• $7, littlebirdorganics.co.nz