It has been an unpredictable winter in Wellington so far - with some warmer days than usual. But there are still ‘I feel snow nearby’ temperatures, and ‘I wish I was in bed’ weather, and we have a while to go before spring comes, the days get longer and the steady warmth of summer arrives. It’s common for these cold, short days of winter to make people feel a little depressed and lethargic. The longer hours we spend indoors and the extra time spent wrapped up in bed or on the couch can have a significant impact our overall wellbeing. To stay well and keep away the winter blues, avoid your instincts to hibernate, enjoy the season and strengthen your immune system. We present you with:
Be Well’s 6 Tips for Winter Wellness
Join a class - with a friend
The winter months can take a toll on our mental health, the lack of sunlight makes us low on Vitamin D and our tendency to stay inside can make the winter months quite isolating for many people. The key to getting out of that oh so cosy bed every morning is to have a plan and something to look forward to. Signing up for a regular class will achieve both these things. Choose something that you have always wanted to try, something new that will hold your interest and you will have something to look forward to every week. The learning aspect of classes is also great for your wellbeing - yoga, pottery, cooking or sewing classes can allow you to keep fit, engage your brain and be creative; all things that keep you in a positive and motivated mindset. On top of that they are a great way to socialise and important part of keeping away those blues. Take a friend, they will keep you committed, you’ll get to see them more often AND you will both enjoy the benefits together.
Wrap up warm
It seems obvious, but don’t overlook the importance of dressing warm. Being too cold can affect your immune system. When your body is focused on trying to warm itself up all its resources are diverted to this, resulting in a weakened immune system. Blood is moved to your body’s core in cold weather so it is important to keep those extremities warm - head, hands and feet. Gloves, scarves, warm hats, socks and shoes make good investments for this time of year and are especially useful for the mornings and evenings. As with anything, it’s about balance, you want to avoid over heating as sweating chills your body. The best option is to dress in layers.
We all know exercise helps keep us physically fit, but it’s important for our mental and emotional state as well. Raising your heart rate during exercise also raises your blood pressure which has the same effect as a shot of adrenaline -it wakes you up giving you a sense of energy, something we all need to fight winter fatigue on cold mornings. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins, hormones which have a positive effect on your mood. It has the reverse effect on hormones that cause stress and anxiety like cortisol, reducing the production. This helps you to have a more restful sleep at night. In fact, studies at the University of Georgia have found that low intensity exercise for 20 minutes a day 3 times a week reduces fatigue levels up to 65%!
Make exercise easy. Think of ways to weave exercise into your day. If you are meeting a friend for coffee, try going for a walk together instead. Doing the vacuuming or dusting? Try doing it faster. Cleaning can be a great form of exercise. You know what they say, 20 minutes a day you’ve got to push play! Even better, make it regular. Three runs, or long walks a week is ideal and scheduling them regularly will help you to to follow through.
Relax- it strengthens your immune system
Yes, simply relaxing can help you fight off winter sickness! Research suggests that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can weaken your immune system making you more vulnerable to getting sick. However, the studies showed that engaging in mindful exercises like meditation and gentle yoga can lower levels of cortisol. So find what relaxes you best: reading, a bath (try an Epsom salt bath), walking or simply taking 10 minutes a day to focus on slowing your breathing and relaxing your muscles. Who knew fighting off colds could be so peaceful and so easy?
Count some sheep -it’s good to sleep
Sleep is important for both your body and mind to rest and repair. A lack of sleep suppresses immune system function as infection-fighting antibodies and cells decrease during periods of sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that lack of quality sleep makes you more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus and can affect how quickly you recuperate if you do get sick. To keep your immune system working at its best adults need 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours and school-age children usually need 10 or more.
If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, try working on your daily routine. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Shut off the computer and TV at least an hour before bed as the light from the screens can inhibit your body’s production of the natural hormones that help put you to sleep. So how many sheep are there?
Natural immunity boosters
Healthy eating habits with a diverse diet of nutrient rich foods is a natural way to strengthen your immune system, keeping up your general health and wellbeing for winter. As a general rule, go for foods that are in season. Nature is pretty good at providing you with the right nutrients for the right time of year, not to mention they will be the best value at the vege market. Here are a few natural immunity boosters:
Most people know about Vitamin C being great for boosting immunity, but did you know that almost all animals synthesiize their own Vitamin C, but we don't? For example a goat produces 13,000 mg a day! Winter Vitamin C rich foods are capsicums, kiwi fruit, leafy greens, peas and berries. Did you know a capsicum has over three times as much Vitamin C as a citrus fruit? During the winter we suggest supplementing two grams a day as a preventative measure against ills and chills. When you are fighting a bug we recommend you rest up and take a megadose of Vitamin C. One to two grams every couple hours for about 6-8 grams a day, will substantially boost your immune system to kick out that bug!
Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D can be produced by our skin in reaction to sunlight, however, especially in winter, with the fewer hours of daylight, it is easy to be Vitamin D deficient if you are relying on the sun alone. Vitamin D is important for the health of bones and teeth as it assists in calcium and phosphorus absorption. Especially helpful in winter, it also regulates immune system function and has positive effects for mental health as it helps to regulate mood and ward off depression. So even if you are making the most of the extra sun this winter, it is worth adding some Vitamin D to your diet. Good sources include mushrooms, salmon (fresh or canned), eggs, soy milk, tofu, cod, shrimp and halibut. Most people are still deficient due to the lack of sunlight, so we recommend Eagle's Vitamin D3 Spray. Just one spray a day contains 1000 IU which keeps your mood elevated during the gloomy winter days and fights off infections.
If your want to fight of the common cold echinacea is your hero. It’s quick to support immunity and helps to reduce the strength and length of colds. A study at the University of Connecticut found that echinacea reduces the the chances of catching a common cold by 58%! If you do get a cold it can cut the length of it by a couple days. It also has strong anti-inflammatory effects and can relieve symptoms of respiratory tract infections. Get this hero on your side quick!
Garlic is great for the immune system as its sulphur-containing compounds increase the strength of both T-lymphocytes and macrophages. These types of cells are essential to battle flu and colds. It needs to be crushed to activate it, and it is most powerful raw or cooked very little. It also has great prebiotic benefits!
When purchasing supplements, you get what you pay for so we always recommend buying top quality from a licensed practitioner or your local health store like Common Sense Organics instead of the grocery store.
Have a happy winter and stay warm and dry!