Does it feel like your winter wellness strategy is limited to crossing your fingers, and holding your breath when walking through crowded buildings?Winter wellness is a lifestyle that starts with minimizing stress and germs, while maximizing nutrition, connection, outdoor life, and sleep. These interconnected lifestyle pieces can make you more resistant to the flu and other diseases throughout the winter.
My family of six has kept the flu away for four years – here are six tips to help you do the same by building your immune system and creating a cycle of wellness.
6 Ways to Keep The Flu Away This Winter
Tip #1: No stress is best
Stress lowers our immune response, but it also interferes with sleep, appetite, and our ability to handle daily tasks. We’ve worked hard to reduce stress in our lives by streamlining household chores and reducing outside commitments. Most importantly we listen to our bodies – if stress is creeping in to ruin activities that should be fun, perhaps we’ve over scheduled or over stretched our family, and it’s time to dial back the activities even more. We also add extra hugs and eye contact – studies have shown that physical touch and eye contact reduce stress and increase levels of dopamine – the feel good hormone.
Tip #2: Hands washed often
Germs are everywhere, and in the winter, when we have so little sun, and so many sniffly noses, you can almost feel them crawling all over you. We fight them by having firm hand washing rules at home, and by not wearing our outdoor shoes inside the house. My husband enjoys wiping things down with disinfectant wipes when things get really out of hand.
Tip # 3: More sleep
Sleep is so important to the immune system! We have regular bedtimes, even for the adults. Any time I rob myself of sleep for a week or more, I’m guaranteed to pick up a cold or stomach bug out of nowhere. Sleeping well (at least eight hours in a dark, cool room) also helps to reduce stress response in the body, and control cravings for carbs and sugar. This means that a good night of sleep and white space in your calendar helps you choose the nutritious food that will protect and fortify your immune system.
Tip # 4: Five servings of fruit
We try maximize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins, and minimize refined sugars and empty carbs. We aim to have at least two vegetables available for dinner – and fill half the plate with veggies. This can be hard for the kids, so we include prepared salads, and Indian, Russian, or Chinese style veggie dishes that are more flavorful.
Tip # 5: Outdoor Fun
There have been a lot of studies done about the effects of nature on humans recently, and most conclude that beings outside lowers stress response, increases appetite for healthy foods, and helps regulate the circadian rhythm, which helps us sleep! I try to find interesting ways for the kids to enjoy taking walks or working in the yard – they may ride on bikes while we walk, or we play games to see who can find the most interesting nature item.
Tip # 6: Vitamin D is key
Our last line of defense is supplements – we take vitamin D and multivitamins. If I hear that kids at school or work are getting sick, I double up on raw garlic in our cooking, and cook more Indian dishes – I believe the combinations of spices help fortify our immune systems.
It has taken us years to put the above cycle in to practice, and some times we still struggle. We’ve felt the difference in our family, and I hope you can create a wellness cycle in your life as well.
About Kseniya Popov-Huang
Kseniya is a community member, parent, and professional passionate about health and wellness.