Baby it’s cold outside! I can’t be the only one singing that song into the New Year. December 21st marked the first official day of Winter and the beginning of shorter days and longer nights. Yay – or nay for some. This time of the year is obviously very cold but it doesn’t have to be frightful. After scouring the internet for the best wellness tips for this seasonal cool down, we narrowed it down to the 5 that we think every body will benefit from. Hey, come Spring we’ll be more than ready to bloom!
1. Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamins
Bundle up, slather on some zinc sunscreen and head outside for some body loving, au natural, vitamin D! Vitamin D can do wonders for your immune system, as well as your mood – especially during these cold winter months.
If you spend the majority of your day inside (like 42% of the US population), you may be deficient in Vitamin D, and the best form of vitamin D is straight from the sun but you can definitely supplement. So whether you work from home or commute to the office, a 10- or 15-minute walk around the block or 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day, can be beneficial and mood boosting. Studies show this can actually reduce fatigue, mood swings, joint pain, muscle cramps, depression, and anxiety.
Also, make magnesium a staple. My doctor once told me that magnesium is nature’s muscle and mind relaxer. It’s also the most common mineral deficiency in America. Magnesium is essential because it supports these y-shaped proteins produced by your immune system that neutralize harmful bacteria and viruses. From a burnout/stress perspective, magnesium helps to calm the nervous system, mildly lower blood pressure, and quickly relax muscles throughout the body.
2. Dance, Lift, Run, Cycle or Do Anything Close to Exercise
Exercise might be the last thing on your mind with shorter days but pre-book your workout classes or block out an hour in the morning to get your blood pumping. Maintaining consistency and keeping to your routine, will make this seasonal weather feel less dramatic. Give yourself grace if needed though, in Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old ancient Indian medical belief system, the winter season is associated with rest and doing less. Just like a bear going into hibernation, your body might crave a lighter weight, a slower routine or more yoga practices; honor that during this chilly time.
Exercise is nature’s antidote to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is common in northern climates and winter months. It’s known to improve immune regulation and mental health by helping the brain cope with stress.
3. Eat & Drink For The Season
The holidays entice us with carbohydrate packed favorites but a well-balanced and seasonal meal are just what your immune system needs to stay strong during the low-temp season. Winter fruits have tons of health-boosting qualities. Stop by your local farmers market or supermarket and look for dark leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard as well as winter squash, citrus and pomegranate, through them into an entree, side dish or have as a quick snack.
Make it a seasonal habit to include wholefood doses of vitamin C too. This can include those winter-time fruits like kiwi, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits. Vitamin C is a natural superhero for immune health.
Speaking of citrus… when it comes to the holiday cheers, opt for higher quality, lower sugar varieties of alcohol such as tequila, mezcal, or vodka with seltzer and a citrus wedge and steer clear of beer and sugary cocktails. Alcohol is a depressant and interrupts quality sleep. I think we can agree, we definitely don’t need brain fog and a hangover added to the chill of winter.
4. Meditation for Mental Health
Learn a simple breathing practice to stay calm, focused and energized. I say simple but we all know mediation is not a simple practice. Meditation isn’t just for the yogis and the vision board makers . From an immune perspective, numerous studies have proven that meditation increases the production of antibodies.
Mindfulness-based practices (al a meditation) have been shown to dampen the activity of the gene associated with inflammation—and even reduce the molecular damage caused by stress/burnout. Specifically, deep belly breathing during meditation stimulates the vagus nerve and turns on the ‘rest and digest’ part of our nervous system to lower heart rate and reduce anxiety.
Meditation is not a one and done, but maybe making meditation a New Year’s resolution is a really good idea for 2022!
5. Get good sleep
Winter is one of the best times to start the habit of going to bed earlier, thanks to the 4pm sunsets. Getting sufficient rest is crucial to health and well-being. Studies say that most people should be getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep at night. That sounds doable but in reality, falling (and staying) asleep can be very hard – especially if your brain is going 100mph.
If you have a hard time falling asleep, try to turn off computer screens, TV screens and electronic devices at least 2 hours prior to sleep. The light being emitted from these devices can excite the brain and decrease sleep quality. Try to go to bed at the same time every day to create a solid routine. Your body loves routine and will thank you for it with a healthy immune system.
Another thing to note about less zzz’s; inadequate sleep increases the accumulation of toxic metabolic debris in the brain, and creates stress in the body. The cortisol levels all lead to a less than lovely mix of increasing appetite, weight gain, and fatigue, as well as suppressing immune function. From an immune perspective, less than 7-8 hours of sleep decreases the production of immunoprotective cytokines (proteins released by your immune system that help fight against illness).
Skip the late night cortisol boasts and set an alarm to get to bed sooner. Your body will love waking up with the rising sun minus the 10 cups of coffee.
BONUS! Find a Place to Warm Up
Who doesn’t like a bonus! Especially when it’s warm and welcoming. There’s an old saying that goes something like this, “Don’t get caught in the rain, you will catch a cold.” A simple little saying that does have some truth to it (if you’re not bundled up for the chill of winter). When the body’s temperature drops it may experience stress and in turn, can lower your immunity and make you more susceptible to winter-time bugs going around. Staying warm and being comfortable can help us stay more than well.
A warm, inviting, private, sweat-inducing infrared session can help rally your body’s natural immune defenses. An infrared sauna will raise the body’s core temperature by 2 or 3 degrees and rev up white blood cell production. With more white blood cells on the march to fight for you, your body will be a considerably less appealing place for viral invaders to live rent free. How much time do you need to take advantage of this wellness treat? Once or twice a week is great to start! Be sure to come hydrated and stay hydrated during and after your session too.
If you find these tips helpful, let us know. And if you don’t, well… head outside to get some vitamin D and then tell us how you feel.