Winter Health Wellness Tips

Cold Weather Health Wellness Tips

Well here in Canada, we are heading into the cold months of winter. Some of us are more prone to illnesses during these months. We of course build up our immune systems to enable us to combat any nasty germs that may want to enter our bodies and cause us to become ill. These cold wintery months can affect us both physically and mentally. I will try and provide you with some suggestions to build a strong immune system.

Being Aware Of The Stressors During Winter

Winter health wellness tips

The Winter season can be busy and exciting. With so many events like family dinners, holiday parties, and the preparation and planning for gift giving, we have plenty of distractions to keep us from focusing on our health and taking care of ourselves as we would normally.

Furthermore, once the holiday season is over, many people experience a lull in their motivation to stay active. Some people begin to experience depression or feelings of anxiousness over expenses that accumulated throughout the holidays. Others let diet and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Often, given the weather, exercise is sacrificed for warm nights spent indoors on the couch.

With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues. What’s more, the colder weather creates a number of safety risks to us and to those around us, and some of these we may not even be aware of.

Recognizing safety risks and patterns of illness or low energy ahead of time is key to preventing them — or at least to dealing with them as they arise. There are countless winter wellness tips and ideas available to ensure you have lots of ways to stay healthy, fit, and safe this holiday season and beyond. These healthy winter habits will help you to recognize where your health falls short and what you can do to boost it during this time of year.

Proper Diet And Exercise

Furthermore, once the holiday season is over, many people experience a lull in their motivation to stay active. Some people begin to experience depression or feelings of anxiousness over expenses that accumulated throughout the holidays. Others let diet and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Often, given the weather, exercise is sacrificed for warm nights spent indoors on the couch.

With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues. What’s more, the colder weather creates a number of safety risks to us and to those around us, and some of these we may not even be aware of.

Recognizing safety risks and patterns of illness or low energy ahead of time is key to preventing them — or at least to dealing with them as they arise. There are countless winter wellness tips and ideas available to ensure you have lots of ways to stay healthy, fit, and safe this holiday season and beyond. These healthy winter habits will help you to recognize where your health falls short and what you can do to boost it during this time of year.

Diet and Exercise Tips

While the winter season might increase the risk of weather-related injury, the biggest risk to our overall health is a lack of attention to diet and exercise routines. During the holidays, we find ourselves so busy finalizing travel plans, finishing up with tasks at work, buying and wrapping gifts, and crossing everything off of our checklists that we forget to prioritize our healthy habits.

As if all the insanity of the holidays isn’t detrimental enough to our healthy habits, the chilly and unpleasant weather can also make it very difficult to find the motivation to get to the gym or head outdoors for exercises. In tandem with this, the additional time spent indoors means many of us snack more than we would typically at other times of the year. This combination can quickly add on the pounds and reduce our happiness and self-esteem over time.

Maintaining proper diet and exercise routines is also necessary to ward off illness. It is estimated that up to 20% of the United States population gets the cold or flu each year. Wintertime presents a higher likelihood to develop cold and flu than during any other season. Here are some winter diet and exercise tips to show you how to stay healthy and fit during winter’s colder months:

Diet And Supplements

1. Calm Your Carb Cravings

The cold season tends to ignite our cravings for more carbs and comfort foods. Why? After you consume these delicious treats, your serotonin levels rise, making your brain think you are happier. And as the day wears on, your carb cravings get stronger and stronger.

To counter this, try eating a protein-packed breakfast to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. If by the time the afternoon rolls around you’re still craving sweets or carbs, be sure to have low-fat and healthy snacks on hand. However, if you can, finding a way to increase your serotonin levels without food is the best way to beat the carb cravings.

2. Add Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that is naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds, and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory. Studies have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter days of winter.

3. Cook With Mushrooms

There are several species of mushrooms that have immune-boosting health benefits. That’s because mushrooms have naturally-occurring antibiotics. This gives them medicinal properties, which helps us to fight off many types of illnesses. Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to stock up on varieties like white button or shitake mushrooms and add them to your meals this winter.

4. Eat More Fiber

Soluble fiber found in apples, oats, and nuts is an important way to decrease inflammation and boost immune system function. Soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels in the body and aids in weight loss and protection against diabetes. This is an especially important winter health tip for seniors who require a high-fiber diet to protect their digestive systems.

5. Eat More Green and Orange Vegetables

Sticking primarily to vegetables and fruits that are dark green and orange is important in ensuring you’re getting healthy nutrients, sugars, and fats. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, squash, carrots, and oranges are all delicious during the winter. There are plenty of recipes available to incorporate these items into your regular winter diet.

6. Cook With Spices

Onions, garlic, ginger, and cilantro are the perfect items to add flavor to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Its main active ingredient is called curcumin, which gives curry its yellow color. This spice helps to combat a number of conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it acts as a powerful antioxidant.

7. Plan Your Exercises a Week in Advance

Try to stick to a weekly exercise plan so you don’t put off your regular exercise activities. On Sunday night, write down your exercise schedule for the next seven days. Choose your exact workout routines, activities, or exercises for each day and how long they will be. Knowing what you’re scheduled to do each day ahead of time makes it easier to stick to. If you can, line up your workout schedule with a friend to encourage each other to stick with it and stay motivated.

8. Workout at Home

If you have no desire to head outdoors for your workout, then never fear. There are plenty of resources online that supply fun workout videos and exercises. These resources offer a variety of workouts including yoga, strength training, aerobics, and other body-weight exercises. Check out Pinterest for tons of great resources so you can get fit in the comfort of your own living room.

Mental, Physical, Skin Health Wellness Tips

Above and beyond the potential for personal injury and the decline in fitness and diet routines, winter time presents another threat to our health. This time of year can cause an increase in depression, which may lead to a decline in overall mental health. Though many people may experience mild forms of depression or sadness due to lower levels of sunlight, there are an estimated nine million Americans chronically affected by the change in season. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it is significantly more common in women than men.

When our mental well-being isn’t where it should be, we become even more susceptible to stress and illness. It is as important as ever in the winter to take a holistic approach to wellness, not only for our diets and physical exercise but for our mental well-being, too.

Here are some mental health and general wellness tips for winter so you can stay healthy during the colder, darker season:

1. Frequent Hand Washing

Though it sounds like a broken record, frequent handwashing throughout the day is an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter. It not only helps protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and cold, but it protects others around you.

2. Head to a Sauna or Steam Room

If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress during and after the holiday season, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.

3. Take Vitamin Supplements

Consuming lots of vitamin C during the winter will help your body to battle cold and flu symptoms if you do experience them. Vitamin D helps to supplement the lack of light experienced during winter, but it’s still important to get out in the sun whenever it does appear. Vitamin D helps to absorb other important vitamins like vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

4. Drink Herbal Teas

There are many types of herbal teas that can help you stay healthy. Herbal teas like lemon and chamomile can ease depression and anxiety by calming nerves and relaxing your body. They can also help you sleep better. Some herbal teas like green and Rooibos are great as antioxidants. For the most benefit be sure to look for organic teas made from high-quality ingredients.

5. Sleep Longer and Better

When the days get shorter, your body will naturally want to sleep longer and will adjust its rhythm to the hours of daylight. Use the longer evenings to wind down and begin relaxing before bed. Try to go to bed as early as possible to give your body enough rest during the times it craves it the most.

Many people choose to use lightboxes that operate on a timer and turn on gradually when it’s time to wake up. This helps your body feel like it is morning. Using this method means that over time, it will be easier to wake up, even if it’s dark outside.

6. Practice Meditation and Relaxation

When you start to feel the winter blues, anxiety, and stress, it’s important to know how to manage it in a healthy way. Going for a walk outdoors whenever weather permits will drastically improve your stress levels, even if it’s just once around the block. You may also want to develop the habit of deep breathing whenever you feel anxiety mounting. Meditation and mindfulness are great practices for managing stress as well.

Find a dark room to sit in by yourself and close your eyes. Relax your muscles, and focus on being present — emptying your mind of all thoughts.

7. Get Social

During the holidays, it’s easy to find lots of things to do. Local community Christmas programs and events like parades, tree lightings, ice skating, and craft fairs abound. But after the holidays, many people start to feel lonely as the activity and buzz die down. This is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends. Plan dinner and movie nights or a day for winter-themed crafts. Organizing family game nights is also a great way to stay connected with loved ones.

Personal Note:

Unfortunately, during this winter season, where we go through several celebrations we need to be aware of the social distancing protocols that we may be facing.

Your Skin:

Cold, dry air quickly sucks moisture from our skin. Combine that with a blasting of hot air from a central heating unit and some nice scratchy winter fabric and your skin can end up being one dry, itchy, scaly mess.

Keep moisture locked into your skin with a heavy, oil-based moisturizer. Lather it on every time you bathe or shower or whenever your skin feels dry. Drink plenty of water and eat foods like berries which are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts, or take omega-3 supplements), and consider using a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.

Naturally, Protect Yourself From Cold and Flu

Maybe your throat has become a bit sore or scratchy. Perhaps your nose or eyes are starting to feel a bit congested. You can feel a change in your health but it’s still in the early stages.

Keep some natural remedies at home to take at the first sign of a cold or flu. Olive leaf, garlic, echinacea, elderberry, vitamin C, and zinc may help to boost your immunity and increase our resistance to those nasty winter viruses.

Your Winter Time Heart Health:

Cold weather and heart risk

Extreme cold coupled with unaccustomed exertion is bad for your heart. Studies have shown that heart attack rates increase as temperatures decrease, and normally sedentary people who subject themselves to intense bursts of activity are more at risk.

So be careful if you have to go out on a freezing cold day and shovel snow. Use a small shovel and just move small amounts of snow at a time. Take any chest pain seriously. Seek medical help immediately if you feel discomfort, chest tightening, or pain in the chest, upper arm, or neck area. Most heart attacks start with mild symptoms initially so it is important to get any symptoms of chest pain checked out.

Herbal Help During Winter:

1. Calendula
This is one of my favorite best health herbs for winter – its bright color in my garden gladdens my heart and brightens the day. Use calendula as a salve to heal wind-chapped winter skin, calm inflammation, speed up healing, and fight eczema.

It has wonderful antiseptic properties. You can use freshly picked, open calendula flowers to make an effective infusion for the immune system.

2. Rosemary
Use rosemary, mint thyme, and calendula to steam colds and flu away.
Combine with lemon peel, lemon balm, calendula, lavender, and thyme and use as an antiseptic.
I like to add rosemary to my bath to stimulate circulation to my skin. Try a few drops of rosemary in a diffuser to keep the flu bugs out of your bedroom.

3. Sage
Of all the best winter herbs for health, I recommend sage for treating coughs and colds. Use as a gargle for sore throats – infuse three teaspoons of sage leaves in 250 ml boiling water. Leave to steep for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle three times a day.

4. Heart’s Ease or Viola
Are you surprised to see this as one of the best health herbs for winter?
Try chewing Viola tricolor to relieve headaches; you will be surprised at the effect of this lovely herb. You can also make an infusion as a tea for lowering fevers, cleansing toxins, or as an anti-inflammatory expectorant for coughs.

5. Parsley
Parsley is a wonderful source of vitamins A, C, and E which build the immune system. Make sure you have some growing in your garden (or in a pot) to give your body the winter edge against infections.

Nibble some every day, sprinkle on salads or blend with apple or tomato for a delicious fresh juice.

6. Thyme
If you have a cough or a cold, treat it with thyme. It is also a great anti-oxidant and tonic to build up the immune system. So don’t wait for winter ailments to strike, make yourself some thyme tea, and enjoy regularly. Make an infusion and sip. You can also use thyme in salads and dressings and in your winter casseroles and stews.

More on Herbs and Spices.

Turmeric

Turmeric is kind of the star of the show when it comes to healthy herbs and spices. The bitter orange root is one of ginger’s closest relatives, and it comes from South Asia. Turmeric is vital to the practice of ancient Indian practice, Ayurveda. The pungent root has long been used to heal wounds, loosen mucus, reduce inflammation, and keep bugs away.

The spice gets its power from an active ingredient called curcumin, which gives it its signature color along with the ability to help the body stave off infection and improve your health on a cellular level.

Cinnamon

This fall favorite is the secret power behind all things pumpkin spice, but its cool weather associations actually come with a bit of practicality.  The flavorful spice features natural oils with antimicrobial effects–which helps keep bacteria away. Plus, you’ll get a whole host of antioxidants. The best part about cinnamon–it tastes more like a treat than medicine, and you can add it to coffee, tea, or pretty much whatever you’d like.

Elderberry

Elderberries are unique in the fact that they work to strengthen the body’s mucosal surfaces, which is our defense against incoming cold and flu viruses, as mucus prevents them from attaching to our cells.

Elderberry is also something called a diaphoretic. Meaning, it increases white blood cell activity and makes you sweat, which makes it difficult for viruses to reproduce. While you can’t usually find elderberry in the produce section, you can find elderberry lozenges, tea, and syrup aimed at preventing illness.

Garlic

Garlic does more than bring pasta sauce to life; the pungent bulb may actually prevent colds and can shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.  Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, the source of the distinctive sulphuric flavor behind garlic, onions, and scallions. Allicin provides antioxidant properties and promotes anti-inflammatory activity–so if you think you’re coming down with something, add a few more cloves to tonight’s dinner.

Ginger

Like turmeric, ginger is native to Southeast Asia, dating back thousands of years. Often recommended for keeping colds at bay and soothing queasy stomachs, ginger contains a class of chemicals known as sesquiterpenes, which are thought to target cold viruses.

Ginger root is often consumed in tea form–as sipping on a spiced brew can soothe a sore, scratchy throat. Additionally, the root might even help with certain forms of food poisoning like Salmonella and offers pain-relieving properties.

Shiitake Mushroom

Another culinary staple, shiitake mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for more than 6,000 years. This mushroom is known for both reducing the risk of heart disease and keeping immune cells from sticking to the walls of your blood vessels—a cause of inflammation. Additionally, shiitake brings a hefty dose of vitamins B and D to the table, making them a welcome addition to any stir-fry or sauté.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a gorgeous pink flower and card-carrying member of the daisy family. Echinacea has long been used by Native Americans as a means of treating everything from wounds to snake bites and infections. The plant also works to promote healthy cell growth, is rich in antioxidants, and may help boost the immune system by increasing white blood cell count. Drink echinacea tea or take a capsule if you’re feeling a little under the weather.

Another Personal Note:

There are certain mood disorders that also occur during the winter cold months mainly. These are psychological and may occur during any seasonal change. The term for this is, “SAD” seasonal acquired disorder. I will leave a link for you if you may find this to be something that affects.

I strongly believe in herbal remedies, and would rather not buy over the counter medications. But please always follow your doctor’s advice first.

Wishing you a great healthy winter season.

Thank you for reading

Michael

Comments are welcome.

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6 thoughts on “Winter Health Wellness Tips”

  1. All these tips are great, I love spices and healthy food, try to eat as much fiber as possible, and also take supplements. However, I have a low blood pressure just like my mom and she once fainted in a sauna so I’m afraid to go to a sauna because of that. I wonder if I can do anything to increase my low blood pressure, there’s advice about how to decrease high blood pressure everywhere but no one care about the opposite.
    What I definitely won’t have problems with is to sleep longer in winter. I love to sleep!
    Thank you for your comprehensive article, it’s very well structured and the tips are easy to follow.

    Reply
    • Hi Lenka,

      Thank you for your comments. Glad you like spices and are into healthy foods. The fiber and supplements give you an added bonus.

      I did an article on low blood pressure. I can not mention the URL to you here as it goes against the rules. Low blood pressure is more common than people think and there are ways of bringing it to the normal levels. 
      The normal range is 120/80.

      Detecting the symptoms for low blood pressure is difficult usually until it is too late.  But most of the time, common signs include light headiness, dizziness, and fainting. The lowest category of hypotension is when the pressure significantly drops to a much lower level that is way below the normal range.

      A systolic pressure that is below sixty coupled with a diastolic pressure of below forty is a very low blood pressure which can expose the person to various risks associated with chronic hypotension. If you send me a PM I will forward the URL to you.

      Best wishes,

      Michael

      Reply
  2. I am always aware of having to stay active as we head into the colder months, which also means not always that easy to enjoy the outdoors. As a woman that hardly eats carbs and gets most of her energy from protein and fats, I find your section on calm your carb cravings very interesting. 

    I eat a lot of fruit and vegs and nuts, which is easy during warm weather, but do find it more challenging when the cold weather creeps in. Some great tips and ideas you have here that I will implement to sustain me during the colder winter months. 

    Reply

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