When the holidays are over and spring is still months away, it’s easy to feel the winter blues. Healthy eating and exercise habits often die off during the holiday season and can be hard to get back into, especially when days are short and dreary, as they can be in the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, these changes in your lifestyle also weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to the bugs that are always going around this time of year. It’s important to be intentional about taking care of yourself during these months – to stave off illness, depression, and extra pounds, among other things.
Here are five simple things that you can do to stay healthy and happy until spring:
- Eat immune-boosting foods. Did you know that red bell peppers contain almost three times as much Vitamin C as oranges? Now you do! Find ways to incorporate the healthy foods that you enjoy. Cruciferous vegetables (spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), mushrooms, carrots, garlic, citrus fruits, yogurt (low-fat and low sugar – sweeten it yourself with fruit or honey!), and cinnamon all have various immune-boosting properties.
- Wash your hands! You hear it all the time, but do you really do it when nobody is watching? Wash them after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, eating, going to the gym…trust us, if you could see the germs on your hands, you’d be far more eager to get to a sink. If you’re feeling lazy, hand sanitizer is a suitable substitute as long as your hands are not visibly soiled. Just make sure you rub your hands together briskly until they no longer feel wet (about 20-30 seconds) – it’s actually the friction that loosens microbes.
- Get active. Sure, you probably won’t be out there mountain biking in the pouring rain, but playing Wii tennis at home with your kids is good exercise AND good laughs. If weather permits, take every opportunity to explore the outdoors and get some much-needed Vitamin D. Too cold, wet, or dark out when you have the time to exercise? We get it. Choose an indoor activity like yoga. Find a workout buddy to meet you at the gym so that you are more accountable for showing up. And make sure that you have a plan! It’s so much easier to get in a workout that you’ll feel good about if you go in knowing exactly what exercises you are going to perform.
- Sleep it off. If you’re used to going to bed at 10:00 in the summer but feel your eyes drooping at 8:30 in the winter, give in! Your body’s circadian rhythm responds to the shorter days by making you crave more sleep. Fighting it for the sake of spacing out to another hour of Netflix will only make you more tired during the day, and more prone to illness. Listen to your body and give it plenty of time to rest.
- Take time to clear your mind. Stress is even harder on our bodies than many of us realize. Meditation, in all its various forms, can help calm both the mind and the body. And it doesn’t have to be an hour of sitting cross-legged in a candlelit room chanting “om” (although it certainly can be) – try sitting quietly with a cup of tea, going for a leisurely walk in nature, or relaxing in a sauna. Whatever you choose to do, do it with the intention of clearing your mind and regulating your breathing.
Cheers to a healthy winter!