Shorter daylight hours and dropping temperatures mean that winter is fast approaching. For optimum wellness during the long winter months it is important to care for your whole being – nurture the body, feed the mind and replenish the spirit.

There are many elements that can be used to help maintain optimum health and sanity as the season shifts. As I began to research and put this article together, I found that the tips of healthy women are very basic, but often things that we push to the side to make room for all of the other to-do’s in our day.  As you read through the list of five ways to maintain optimum health below, I encourage you to think of setting aside a little time each day to incorporate your needs as they change and shift with the season.

In Oriental medicine, winter is connected to the kidneys, which are involved with adrenal function (energy) and water.  Winter is a time to rest your adrenal glands, detox, and conserve energy. As the holiday season gets into full swing it is nearly impossible to get the rest that our bodies crave.  Most health experts often say that sleep requirements vary by individual; however, a 2009 Carnegie Mellon study found that anything short of seven hours nearly triples your odds of catching a cold.  As the days grow shorter, so should ours, to allow our bodies to regenerate and recoup the energy lost during the high summer months. The best way to aid the body is to get adequate sleep. A warm glass of coconut milk 30-45 minutes before bed can help soothe the nerves and calm the mind allowing for a more restful and easier time falling asleep. 

Boost Your Immune System
Work to prevent illness – Regularly wash your hands for 30 seconds. The soap used does not need to be antibacterial to be effective, natural soap containing tea tree oil is a great organic alternative to chemical/antibacterial options. During the winter months, it is important to be aware of objects that are germ magnets, such as your computer keypad, mouse and cell phone. Clean the things you touch regularly with an alcohol swab.

Enhancing the immune system
We are what we eat.  One of the easiest ways to build up the body’s immune system is through the foods that we consume. Garlic has powerful antibacterial properties; incorporating it into your diet allows the body to increase immune function and build a healthy immune response to germs. Additionally, increasing foods rich in carotenes such as dark green vegetables, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers, which enhance white blood cells and are thought to protect the thymus, and which plays a major part in a healthy immune system. Carotene rich foods also help the body to detoxify naturally. Zinc is a potent mineral for immune function. A deficiency in zinc can result in an increased susceptibility to infection. Some examples of naturally rich sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, buckwheat, green peas, turnips and garlic. Last, but certainly not least, we all know that Vitamin C has renowned properties for enhancing the immune system. Food sources with a high vitamin C content include peppers (green chili stew is one of my favorite winter staples), kale, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach, just to name a few.

During the winter months the body generally needs more water than we think. Winter air is dry, whether you're indoors or out, so it pulls moisture from the body drying out the nasal passages and mucus membranes that help fight colds, viruses and infections. 

Keep Warm
Maintaining the body’s optimum core temperature is critical to staying healthy throughout the winter months. Introducing foods such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and chili peppers to your diet can help to stimulate the body’s circulatory system and have a warming effect.  Warm milk with a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg is one of my favorite things during the holiday season.

It’s tough to think about relaxation of any kind as we head into the holidays; kids are home from school, family and work craziness abounds, and the schedule is packed full of parties and those last-minute shopping details. There are a bazillion reasons why taking time to relax is last on the list of must do’s, but here’s why it should be at the top. Current research suggests that being perpetually stressed may lead to an increased susceptibility to catching a cold.  That may be because, over the long term, it leads to the ongoing release of stress hormones. The stress hormones impede the body's ability to produce cell-signaling molecules, which trigger a ‘disease-fighting’ response from your immune system, because the body is concentrating on the ‘flight’ response. To facilitate relaxation, try taking 10 minutes to stretch, clear the mind, and breathe deeply, allowing the body to release tension and refocus.  This small meditation will also help ease the spirit and provide a renewing of focus from the over stimulation we routinely experience in our day to day.

Get some fresh air
Getting fresh air allows you to utilize as much daylight as possible. In a study just released by the National Health Service approximately 7% of the population suffers from a form of depression know as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is prevalent in winter and linked to decreased exposure to daylight. Sunlight triggers the release of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which is a mood enhancer. Sunlight also helps to produce Vitamin D, a key component for good health. Getting outside not only helps you maintain your emotional well being, but getting out for a walk can also boost your physical health. Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, which ultimately enhance immune function in the body.

Taking the time to nurture and maintain our own health and well being is critical not only to ourselves, but also to those around us.  Take a few minutes and incorporate one of the 5 elements above into your daily routine to enhance your own practice for well being this season.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and love filled Winter season.

4 Responses...

Shannon B. says:
December 6, 2011 at 3:41 PM
Thanks for the reminders. Simple things that we can do to take care of ourselves without a lot of time and with no guilt!
Anonymous says:
December 14, 2011 at 7:15 AM
Great self-help tips which we all should take a few minutes to invoke into our lives.
Cynthia C. says:
December 15, 2011 at 3:28 AM
This is such a great time in our lives....we are able to be so connected to wonderful sites as this learning and growing in loving, healing ways....with gratitude, Cynthia
Anonymous says:
December 17, 2011 at 5:59 AM
Thank you for the tips on staying well and focused this season.
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