We’ve all been there, like every morning these days. The alarm goes off, you peek through the window at darkness and check your phone weather app to find the outside temperature is in the single digits. Next move, pull the covers overhead and mentally map out a plan for how to stay in bed all day. Oh, how we wish.
Studies have shown that cold and gloomy weather can impact a person’s health and well-being by leaving us vulnerable to the common cold, increasing the frequency of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies. That’s why this time of year means so many of us are uncharacteristically depressed and feeling run down, even if we haven’t changed anything in our daily lives that might clearly explain these shifts in mood and physical health.
There is good news, though! In addition to common measures to boosting your immune system like getting enough sleep and taking vitamin C, here are simple steps to staying healthy and keeping your cheery attitude alive during the winter months. Spring will be here before you know it (sort of), so don’t wish winter away. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself so you can fully enjoy the beauty and festivities of the season.
How to Stay Healthy All Winter Long
Keep it clean.
By that we mean practice good hygiene. Frequent hand washing with warm water and soap or using hand sanitizer are easy, effective ways to prevent the spread of germs and infections. Always disinfect after touching public surfaces, such as those germy door knobs, elevator buttons and grocery store carts. And avoid touching your face after touching shared surfaces.
Drop the cookie, grab the kale chips.
Excess sugar is believed to suppress your immune system, reducing the ability of white blood cells to kill germs. Add in other immune-suppressing factors such as stress and lack of sleep, and you’re putting yourself at risk of getting sick. On the other hand, baked kale chips, or really any vegetable, have no negative effect on the immune system!
Take a multivitamin.
As much as we try to eat a balanced diet filled with nutrient-dense foods, many of us simply aren’t getting the complete spectrum of nutrients our body needs to live in optimal health. A good quality multivitamin tailored to your individual needs can help fill the gaps and stave off illness.
Share a Laugh.
Laughter is good for your health and who couldn’t use a good laugh these days? It curbs the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection, so queue up the comedies on Netflix or celebrate with your funniest friends during the holidays.
Kick Butt. Repeat.
When it’s cold and the days are short, spending the evening curled up on the couch may be far more appealing than working out, but exercise supports the immune system and may actually prevent you from getting sick. Aerobic exercise helps circulate white blood cells throughout your body so they can find and fight harmful microbes.
Romy Block and Arielle Levitan are physicians with a special interest in preventive medicine and women’s health. Together, they created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are the authors of the award-winning book The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health.