Winter is here whether you like it or not. And that means more time indoors with germs and bacteria. This time of year can certainly be hard on the immune system, so it’s important to step up your healthy habits game.
Our immune system relies on us to treat it right. That means cutting back on excessive alcohol use, eating nutritious meals, regularly exercising, drinking plenty of water, maintaining a healthy weight, getting proper sleep, and getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Is your head spinning yet?
All of these things we do daily, but it can be a lot to keep up with - especially when energy levels are low in the wintertime. One of the best ways to overcome the overwhelming feeling of hitting all of your healthy habits each day is to write out a schedule for yourself. Lucky for you, we’re writing one out for you!
Simply follow this daily routine to increase your immune health and keep your mood boosted through these gray and gloomy months. Here we go…
Wake up and go outside
Working on your circadian health is an important aspect of immune support. Our bodies are like clocks that rely on natural light. Going outside first thing in the morning alerts your brain to start slowly producing the melatonin we need to help us go to bed at night. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important aspects of improving your immune health, so it’s a necessary step in building healthy habits. Exposing your eyes to morning light also boosts dopamine which may help to boost your innate immune system.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Before your morning coffee, it’s important to drink water. You can do this while you are standing outside! Proper hydration helps to lubricate your mouth and nose where the mucous membrane acts as a barrier to outside germs. It also helps to drain the lymphatic system which is part of the immune system that produces white blood cells and other immune cells.
Meditate or journal in silence
Spending a quiet moment with yourself before embarking on a busy work day helps to strengthen your central nervous system and control stress. Research shows that reducing stress through meditation promotes healthy inflammatory response and gut-barrier function which are both essential to overall immune health.
We all know that regular physical activity promotes immune function and overall health. If you can loop in some form of daily movement into your morning routine, it may just be the boost you need to strengthen your immune system. Also, it may increase your focus and boost your mood for the rest of your day.
Take a cold shower
A cold shower? In the winter? Yes, that’s right. Studies show that taking a cold shower can improve your inflammatory response and support your immune system. In fact, one study showed that 30 days of cold showers resulted in fewer sick days. Be aware though, if you are already under the weather, cold showers may not be the best route to take.
Eat a nutritious breakfast
Getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals from food is essential for living well. Eating a variety of plant-based foods can help you get there. Starting your day with a smoothie rich in vitamin c or a hot bowl of fiber-packed oats topped with antioxidant-rich blueberries are two filling and nutrient-dense meals. If you can wait to have your morning coffee, now is a good time to do that. This way you aren’t drinking caffeine on an empty stomach which can have a negative effect on your gut microbiome.
Take your supplements
Supplements are necessary steps in supporting your immune health because it’s almost impossible to get the amount we actually need for great health. Supplements help boost the areas of nutrition that you may lack. Also, there are immune-specific supplements that can keep your immune system strong regardless of your diet. Zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin C are especially important to add to your daily routine when working on your immune health.
Eat more vitamins and minerals for lunch
Another meal, another chance to fill your body with what it wants and needs. Think diverse and colorful when it comes to your midday meal. Your gut health is directly linked to your immune system, so supplying your system with gut-microbiome-friendly foods (think probiotics) may also be the route you want to take.
Check back in with yourself
How are you feeling at this point in your day? Tired? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Listen to what your body needs at this moment. You may need to take a walk, practice breathing exercises, or take a 20-minute nap.
Make a healthy dinner
Dinner time should not be a stressful event, but a time to fuel your body for the final time of the day. This meal should be filling, but it’s important to remember not to overeat. Overeating before bedtime can actually negatively impact your sleep. Also, you should give yourself about 3 hours to digest before bedtime. This will help promote the deepest, restful sleep you need.
Turn off all screens
Avoid using your phone, laptop, television, or gaming device before bedtime. This will help increase the amount of melatonin your body produces which is necessary for restful sleep. When you use blue-light-emitting devices before bedtime, your circadian rhythm can be thrown off because your body reads blue light like daylight. Just as we need daylight in the morning to wake us up and start the slow production of melatonin, we need less blue light or daylight at nighttime to trigger the release of melatonin.
Relax and drift off to sleep
The final step in your immune supporting daily routine is getting a good night of sleep. Everything you’ve done in your day leading up to this point affects this final step. Restorative sleep is just that - it restores your systems and helps them to stay functioning. A natural sleep supplement can help you to achieve the best sleep possible if you are someone who has trouble sleeping. Or you can resort to quiet, relaxing activities like reading or meditating. Either way, it is important to prioritize getting enough sleep in order to properly support your immune system.
Small daily habits add up in the grand scheme of your health. It can be overwhelming to tackle all aspects of healthy living at once, but if you break it down and work on building habits over time it becomes second nature. Use this outline as a guide, but absolutely amend it to fit your unique schedule. Let’s stay healthy this winter and improve our immune health over time!