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Seven Tips for Winter Wellness

Determined to stay well this winter? Nutrition expert and CSCVVSB educator Susan J. Speer, MS, RD, CSO, FADA offers seven simple tips to help fight winter bugs, lift your mood and rev up your energy.

  • Breathe. Take a minute or two several times a day to breathe deeply and slowly. While you are breathing, actively relax your body. Clear your mind and settle in the present moment. Deep breathing triggers your body’s natural relaxation response, building resistance to stress and strengthening your whole system.
  • Move. Exercise is a proven immune booster, just don’t exercise to exhaustion. And if you can be active outdoors, it will literally broaden your horizons and lift your spirits. Don’t like to exercise? Play instead. Get a hula hoop, join a dance class, take up badminton, play Frisbee with your dog. If the weather is inclement, consider the virtual outdoors in a game of golf or tennis on Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii. Have some fun. As Newton said: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.”
  • Laugh. A 2010 literature review on laughter found that laughing upregulates over 20 genes that can increase production of infection-fighting antibodies. Laughing at a funny video has been shown to increase immune activity for up to 4 hours. Plus, it feels so good. Happiness is contagious. Spend time with people who are positive, be silly—just the act of laughing works, so fake it ‘til you make it.
  • Go Halvesies. Make half of every meal and snack fresh produce. Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with healthy phytochemicals that can detoxify, strengthen, and calm your system. Filling half your plate with plants will help push unhealthy foods up into the corners (and eventually off your plate). Too much sugar, fat, caffeine, and alcohol are surefire immune busters.
  • Stay Hydrated. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you don’t need fluid. Heated indoor air is drier and you use more moisture to warm and humidify cold outdoor air in the winter. All liquids count, but plain water is always best. Stay toasty and hydrated with healthy herbal teas: try ginger turmeric tea for the anti-inflammatory effect; settle an upset stomach with tummy mint tea or soothe your nerves with sleepytime tea.
  • Don’t Scrimp on Sleep. Although some people claim they feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a day, research shows that most adults need 7-8 hours a night for optimal well-being. Limit your screen time and develop a relaxing evening ritual that eases you into restful sleep.
  • Count Your Blessings. Distress releases hormones that eventually weaken your immune system. Best antidote to distress: gratitude. Take a few moments every day to recall what is right and good in your life: the people and events that you are grateful for or that you appreciate.  Count your own attributes and accomplishments. If your list is short, start paying attention. You might find a moment of joy in noticing the warm sunshine on your face. Boost your happiness quotient by expressing your gratitude.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

Photo Courtesy of Mark Brandes Studio

Photo Courtesy of Mark Brandes Studio

Susan Speer is a certified oncology nutrition specialist and director of nutrition services at the Cancer Center of Ventura County at St. John’s Hospitals. She has been developing and teaching programs in health promotion and disease management for more than 30 years and is the 2012 recipient of the Cancer Support Community VVSB’s Award of Excellence.  

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