We dread winter, not only because it’s cold and often miserably wet outside, but because it also tends to be the season when we get most sick. This doesn’t have to be the case though. Winter doesn’t have to be the season of illness. There are a number of ways to stay healthy in the winter that don’t include sitting at home staring out the window.
Fortify Your Immune System
Your best defense against the cold, flu, and the frustrating winter sore throat is maintaining a strong immune system. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to fortify your immune system. Fruits and vegetables vibrant in color are rich in essential vitamins and can provide stellar support. Another excellent immune support booster is milk. Milk is rich in vitamins A and B12, as well as protein and fats that work with the body to strengthen it’s natural defenses, not to mention muscles. A milk rich in vitamin D is also great for supplementing mood boosting vitamin D that we tend to lack during the winter due to the decreased sunlight exposure and shorter daylight hours.
Bolster Your Cleanliness and Hygiene
This sounds like dumb advice because we all know that washing our hands is important. However, during the winter seasons when we’re nearly 80% more likely to get sick, frequent hand washing is essential. It isn’t enough to simply wash your hands after using the restroom or eating. Wash your hands throughout the day to prevent the spread of any germs you may have picked up throughout the day. In addition to keeping your hands clean, keep your home and work space as clean as possible. Wash commonly touched areas like door handles, cabinets, faucets, fridge and freezer doors, computer keyboards, etc.
Bolstering your hygiene also means changing your habits from sneezing into your hands to sneezing into your sleeve. This greatly prevents the spread of germs as you’re not getting those germs onto your hands and then leaving them on every surface you touch, including your friends and family. If you blow your nose – using a tissue or not – wash your hands afterward. Keep a box of tissues handy so you’re not using the same old tissue and infecting your hands over and over again.
Another big one is changing your toothbrush. Many of us forget that our toothbrushes are hotbeds for germs, and using the same toothbrush, especially before and after a bout with the cold or flu. Keep an extra brush or two handy for just such an occasion. The same goes for having a simple mouth sore as the germs living on the brush can re-infect you, or even spread to other brushes that yours may be touching when stored.
The Importance of Light
We briefly touched upon the importance of vitamin D to our bodies during the winter, and sunlight generally provides this However, winter is notorious for depriving us of the essential sunlight we need for ample vitamin D levels. Additionally, the drab, dark weather can be a downer all on it’s own. Depression, even seasonal in nature, can cause serious mood swings that take a toll on both our bodies and minds. Depression also weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illness. So, getting outside and enjoying every sunny day possible is extremely important. If you live in an area where damp, dark weather occurs more often than not, invest in a light therapy method for you and the family. Just 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to special UV light boxes can greatly bolster mood, help to life depression, and give the body some of that valuable vitamin D that our bodies so crave during the winter months.
Lower Stress Levels
While stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress can actually take a very negative toll on the body. High levels of stress kills brain cells and lowers the body’s immune system, thus making you more susceptible to illness, as well as more absent minded and more likely to make poor decisions. Be sure to take time out of each week to just relax. See a movie, read a book, or take a leisurely walk; anything to lower stress levels a bit and ground yourself.