As a kid, it seemed that wintertime was practically synonymous with sickness. My mother would always try to keep me from getting sick, but between being with other kids at school all day — and doing little to heed her warnings when she wasn’t looking — it seems that I got sick nearly every year. And as an adult, not much has changed. Sick classmates have given way to sick coworkers, and we’re too busy to keep up with our own health, much less the health of our children and families.
Instead of dealing with sickness when it arrives, focus on boosting your immune system so you can avoid getting sick in the first place. The following are five ways you and your entire family can boost the immune system to stay healthy and happy all winter long.
Get plenty of sleep
During sleep, your body heals and repairs itself. Once you clock out for the night and get some quality shut-eye, your body gets to work on repairing all the damage done throughout the day — including producing new antibodies to boost your immune system and to fight off sickness and disease. Not getting enough sleep leaves your body less time to repair itself, produce new antibodies and get ready for a new day. While skimping on one night of sleep here and there won’t hurt, repeatedly getting less than seven hours of sleep per night leaves your body without all the rest, repair and recharge it needs to stay strong and fend off incoming sickness and illness.
Relax, unwind and stop stressing
Unfortunately, stress is just a part of life. While you may not be able to get rid of all of your sources of stress, you can at least learn to manage stress better. Try to give yourself at least a few minutes of silence per day to meditate or reflect. If you have more time, you could try taking up yoga or another exercise that you find to be relaxing and centering. Plan out your days, stick to your agenda when it seems feasible and try your best to slow down and enjoy the world around you. Take as much off of your plate as possible and don’t be afraid to say no when you just really need a rest.
Get enough exercise
The health benefits of exercise are nearly limitless. Regular exercise can boost your immune system, decrease stress, help you sleep better at night and keep your weight under control. The natural endorphins produced by exercise can help you stay focused, relaxed and energized throughout your day. Though it’s colder outside, you can use the wintertime to try out new indoor activities with your kids like yoga, Wii Fit games or exercise DVDs. And when winter graces you with a few warmer weather days, seize the opportunity to get outside, soak up some vitamin D and get in some quality exercise or play with the kids. Try to get at least 15 to 30 minutes of exercise per day.
Keep the house warm and cozy
While high temperatures can actually lend to the spread of germs and sickness, keeping your home too cold could do more harm than good. Shivering uses excess energy and actually depresses the immune system. But instead of running your heat constantly at a high temperature, just focus on heating a few main spaces with a convection heater or space heater. You can save money on your energy while staying warm, cozy and healthy.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
A diet that’s high in sugar can actually suppress your immune system for hours after consumption. While one soda or fully frosted cupcake won’t hurt, consuming a high sugar diet will catch up with you over time — in more ways than one. Load your diet with fruits and vegetables. They’re natural sources of important vitamins and nutrients like vitamins E and C, beta-carotene and zinc. To be sure that you’re getting a wide range of vitamins and nutrients, eat fruits and veggies of every color. Mushrooms and garlic are also known to boost the immune system. And if you do start to feel sick, chicken noodle soup or vegetable soup can help you feel better without a trip to the doctor.