Winter can take its toll both physically and emotionally. While some people love rugging up and enjoying the cool temperatures, others hate spending more time indoors and the sickness that comes with this time of the year.
Here are 5 strategies that can help you stay healthy and happier this winter.
#1 Be Social
It’s easy to hibernate your way through winter. Staying home with the heater on out of the cold may seem like the healthiest option. But getting out to meet friends and family is important for our mental health.
If you make the effort to get out and do things during winter you’ll feel better, physically and emotionally.
Being part of the community provides a sense of belonging and connectedness. Meeting new people is also great for our wellbeing. Join a community group, fitness class or do some volunteer work if you don’t have any regular commitments.
#2 Worship the Sun
The reduced hours of sunlight during winter can impact on our health. While we are lucky compared to some countries in the northern hemisphere, it is possible for Australians to not see much sun during winter because they go to and from work in the dark.
Not getting enough sun can cause mood swings, sleep problems, anxiety and even lead to depression. Make an effort to leave your desk at lunch time and venture outside whenever the sun is shining.
Taking breaks outside gives you a boost of vitamin D. Vitamin D can reduce your risk of developing multiple sclerosis, heart disease and depression. It is also crucial for the absorption of calcium and for a normal functioning immune system
Regular sun exposure also gives your immune system a boost to help fight off the winter bugs and can prevent that general feeling of tiredness during the winter months.
#3 Limit Your Exposure to Cold and Flu Viruses
Most people will suffer through at least two colds per year and it’s more likely during winter when we are indoors more, sharing germs with one another. While it’s not possible to avoid coming into contact with cold and flu viruses, you can reduce your chance of catching one.
The flu virus is transmitted through the air by infected people coughing, sneezing, talking and even breathing up to six feet away. The virus can live in the air for several minutes. Although less common, we can pass the virus on by touching an infected surface.
The best prevention against the flu is the flu vaccination. While it doesn’t guarantee you won’t catch the flu, it can reduce the likelihood and severity of the flu.
Cold germs can last much longer on surfaces than the flu virus. Washing your hands often with running water and soap can reduce your chances of getting sick. If someone in your family has a cold, wipe down bench tops, light switches and taps to remove the germs. Also, try not to touch your face. Any germs on your hands can enter the body through your nose and mouth.
#4 Eat Right and Stay Active
When we’re dressing in layers, we’re more likely not to worry about our body shape. We feel less guilty about eating comfort foods and gaining a few kilos to help keep us warm. But our health relies on us eating healthy all year round. Just because you don’t enjoy eating salads in winter, there are plenty of healthy options during the colder months. Choose seasonal ingredients to make low kilojoule soups and stews, packed with vitamins and minerals.
Exercise helps keep us in shape, so when it’s time to peel off the layers and pull on the shorts for summer, we don’t feel so reluctant. Exercising in winter is also important for keeping us healthy. Moderate exercise boosts our immune system. Research has shown regular moderate exercise reduces our chance of catching an upper respiratory infection such as a cold by almost a third.
#5 Get Enough Rest (but not too much)
A good night's sleep helps boost the immune system. Too many Australian adults aren’t getting enough sleep and it’s making us feel tired, irritable, unmotivated, fatigued, clumsy and forgetful. Going to bed early allows us to pay off some of our sleep debt and sets us up for a positive day tomorrow. On the other hand, reduced hours of daylight during the winter months can tempt many of us to stay in bed longer, or slouch around on the couch. It’s a good idea to try and stay within your normal sleep rhythm through winter and unless you are sick, get up and about. You should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night for optimal health and brain function.
If you find the winter months a struggle, contact PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online to speak with a psychologist.