In winter, holiday spirits may be up, but general health tends to be on the decline. It’s not hard to see why—between the freezing weather, increased travel, and busy schedules, most of us aren’t making self-care a priority at this time of year.
But to get through the coldest months in good health, it takes a little extra effort. Keep yourself happy and healthy during the winter with these 10 tips:
- Boost your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known for its powers to bolster heart health, mental well-being, immunity, and even the condition of your skin. But as the sun gets scarce in winter, it gets harder to soak up this vital nutrient naturally.
You can take a supplement, but getting your vitamins naturally is best. One option is to eat more fatty fish such as wild salmon (farmed varieties pack less vitamin D punch). Or, look to improve your health by losing five percent of your body weight to get your body to boost your vitamin D for you. Exercising or lowering your cholesterol will also help you make up your winter D-ficiency.
- Get vaccinated
There’s enough fear of needles that many are more afraid of getting the flu vaccine than they are of getting the flu. But consider this: In 2014 in alone, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated the vaccination averted about 7.2 million illnesses, 3.1 million doctor’s visits, and 90,000 hospitalizations.
If you’re afraid of needles, consider the nasal spray, which is just as effective with out the prick. And remember—getting the vaccine doesn’t just protect you, but it helps promote herd immunity, which protects everyone around you, too.
- Wash your hands frequently
Winter is a season where people travel more, spend more time cooped up together, and immune systems are down. Washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself from getting sick or passing germs on to those around you.
Always use soap when washing your hands, and rub them together for at least 20 seconds. If you want an extra line of defense between washes, consider an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
It may be harder to motivate yourself to exercise in winter, but it’s especially important this time of year. In addition to the obvious fitness benefits, exercise can boost your vitamin D, keep your mood up, and strengthen your immune system.
So get up and hit the pavement in the morning. Or, wait for the rest of the family to wake up and hit the ice skating rink together.
- Eat a healthy breakfast
Starting your day with a healthy meal can help stave off winter cravings—as well as the temptations of holiday parties.
A bowl of balanced carbs like oatmeal or porridge is especially good for winter, as it loads you up on healthy starches and fiber that can boost your energy while helping you feel fuller longer. Avoid sugar, and flavor your bowl with fresh or dried fruit and nuts instead.
- Make time to de-stress
Winter, particularly the holidays, can be an especially stressful time for many. But it’s also the time of year that stress can hurt you the most, lowering your immune system and weighing down your mood even more than the cold weather alone.
To combat stress, take fish oil supplements (proven to reduce anxiety by up to 20 percent), be sure to give yourself downtime, and consider adding meditation to your regular routine.
- Stay hydrated
Getting your eight glasses of water in each day can help address many of winter’s big health issues, from stress to fighting off disease, and even helps to keep your skin looking great.
- Consume more dairy
Go-to dairy staples like milk, yogurt and cheese offer a strong foundation for winter health. Get your daily servings in for craving-stifling protein, bone-strengthening calcium, and a germ-battling army of vitamins and minerals.
- Fighting the holiday blues
A lot of people get down during the winter months. Often, it’s simply hard for reality to live up to the romanticized holiday vision society builds up for us. On top of that, the end of the year prompts people to take stock of where their lives are—and where they’re not.
To lift yourself out of a case of the blues, focus on what you’re grateful for, take good care of yourself, and consider volunteering for a cause. Even better, plan a vacation. The anticipation has been shown to improve moods as far ahead as two months.
But if you suspect you suffer from clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), talk to a psychologist.
- Catch up on sleep
Though we’re supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, most of us get an average six and a half.
But in the darker, colder months of winter, our bodies naturally crave more sleep than usual. Go with it, and let your body catch up on missed REMs.
A Little Self-Care Goes a Long Way
Winter is a season with its own set of challenges … from the stress of the holiday bustle to the latest round of the flu. But a little self-care can go a long way to keep you healthy all season long. Make the effort to stay healthy and you can enjoy all the fun winter has to offer.