Winter is a time for spreading love and good cheer, but it is also the season of spreading those nasty germs that make us sick! In the wintertime, people tend to be gathered more indoors, get less exercise, lose out on sunlight, stress more, drink more alcohol, eat more food, travel, and stay up late at holiday parties. All of this can take a toll on your health. Here are some ways to ride out the winter happy and healthy.
Practice Good Hygiene
Your mom was right, good hygiene promotes better health. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom, after sneezing, before preparing food or eating, and after visiting public places. Keep your nails clean and trimmed so that they don’t harbor germs. You can also protect the health of others. Use good manners when it comes to your sinuses! Clean your nose with a tissue and promptly throw it away. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Wear a mask or stay home when you are feeling unwell.
In cold climates, it can be difficult to stay warm in the winter. While few of us are at risk of actually freezing to death, being cold can weaken your immune system. At the same time, when you are indoors you are in closer quarters with other people and the air is dry—the perfect germ-spreading combo. So what’s a person to do? Try to find a happy medium. Bundle up when you go outside, paying special attention to your nose and mouth. When nasal passages become excessively cold, your first defense against infection literally freezes up. When you are inside, keep the air moist by using a humidifier.
Eat a Healthy Diet
It can be hard to eat right during the holidays, but it is even more important now. Nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are known to increase your immune function. Some examples of immune system boosting power foods are leafy greens, salmon, citrus, nuts, garlic, olive oil, and plain yogurt. The best defense you have against any viral infection is to maintain excellent health overall. Diets that consistently perform well under scientific scrutiny are the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet. Both diets build around whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and pulses; with small amounts of fish and poultry, and a sprinkle of oils high in omega 3 fatty acids.
Be Wary of Seasonal Depression
Staying emotionally healthy is just as important as staying physically healthy. There are several ways to fight off seasonal depression. Be especially diligent when it comes to the holy trinity of emotional health, which consists of proper diet, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise. In addition to these, there are other ways to combat seasonal depression. Light therapy with SAD lamps can be effective. Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Connect with friends and family. Tickle your funny bone every day. And make sure your home is a warm, inviting place to be. One sure way to create a cozy ambience at home is to use your fireplace. Gas fireplaces look natural, provide energy-efficient localized heat, and foster a cozy ambience. But remember, a fireplace requires maintenance to keep clean and run efficiently.
Exercise is a no-brainer, because it essentially kills 4 birds with one stone. Exercise is a free and eco-friendly way to warm up, it is a proven mood booster and stress buster, it helps you sleep, and it enhances immune function. Go out for a jog or walk, and you reap even more benefits by increasing sun exposure. There is no such thing as too cold, only underdressed, so don’t let plummeting temperatures stop you. Invest in multiple layers of high-performance cold weather clothing and get a return on your investment with better health! If it is consistently snowy or icy where you live, join a gym. Working out in a gym setting can increase your motivation, help you find new interests, and allow you to make friends.
Watch Out for Foodborne Illnesses
With winter, comes the holidays, and with the holidays, come the parties. While you enjoy spending time with family and friends, be careful so that you don’t come home with food poisoning. You can prevent this by only eating food from trusted sources, cooking meats thoroughly, washing produce well, keeping sensitive foods on ice, and keeping hot foods over a heat source. Little buggers like E. coli, botulism, and salmonella would love to escort you home and do a number on your digestive system. But foodborne illnesses are no joke, so do everything you can to prevent them.
Most people say that the holidays cause the highest stress of the year. Not only do you have to select the perfect gift for everyone on your list, attend seventeen random parties, buy secret Santa presents for each one of your kids to take to school, get everything shipped on time, create a memorable and life-altering family card, address said cards, hand-craft your kid’s costume for the church pageant, and by some miracle find a cocktail dress that fits, but you also have to somehow afford all of that. The holidays can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. You can choose a stress-free, minimalistic holiday season. Drop whatever can be dropped, say no when you can say no, simplify whatever can be simplified, and create time for what really matters.
It is easy to dry out in the winter, with icy winds, blazing fires, blasting HVAC systems, constant hand washing, and frequent soaks in the tub. But staying hydrated is critical for staying healthy. Proper hydration improves your sleep, boosts your mood, lubricates your joints, powers your immune system, carries nutrients to every cell in your body, and maintains proper organ function. Always keep a water bottle with you and sip on it whenever you are thirsty to combat the drying effects of wintertime.
You really can stay healthy this winter. All it takes is a bit more vigilance and proper self-care. When you are healthy, you can serve more, give more, and spend more time with the people you love.
Read this next: Why Mental Health Patients Have Reason to Be Optimistic