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6 simple steps to winter wellness
Physical and mental health can decline as the weather gets colder and the days get darker. These simple steps will help you have a healthy, happy winter. - photo by Karen Banes
Winter is coming, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere anyway, and that can have a real impact on our wellbeing.

Physical and mental health are closely linked, so its unfortunate that cold and flu season hits just as many of us are already starting to feel the effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

There are a few ways you can stay physically and mentally healthy this winter.

1. Dont hide inside

I used to deal with winter weather by avoiding it. Inside my house, with the heat turned up, was my default winter setting. Then I spent three years living in Canada and learned theres no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. People who live in very cold climates dont hide from the winter. They embrace it, but they prepare for it too.

Youll feel better if you wrap up, get out and lap up what daylight there is, every day. But dont be uncomfortable doing it. Invest in the best winter clothing you can afford. Layer up. Buy some high-tech snow boots if youre spending a lot of time in the snow. If you feel cozy and comfortable, youll be able to get out and get some fresh air, and maybe even sunshine, every day.

2. Keep exercising

If youre like me, you like to get your exercise outdoors. I love hiking, kayaking and ocean swimming, so its tempting to put exercise on hold over the winter. That wont help promote health and wellness, though. And mental health suffers when you stop exercising too.

You can keep exercising outdoors, in spite of the winter weather, and youll be getting that regular dose of fresh air too. Winter is also a great time to try a new indoor activity, like yoga, Zumba or racquetball. Or find a winter sport you love. It doesnt have to be extreme. It could be snowshoeing or ice skating.

3. Build your immunity

According to, foods that naturally boost your immunity include citrus fruits, garlic and ginger. Harvard Health also advises common sense strategies like getting adequate sleep and quit smoking suggesting that:

Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies.

4. Wash your hands

The solution to a lot of physical illnesses and ailments is a very simple one: wash your hands, with soap, thoroughly and often, especially when youre sick. Carry hand sanitizer, use it regularly, or take advantage of a squirt of hand sanitizer whenever you can (doctors, dentists and even libraries now often have a dispenser installed). Hand hygiene just makes good sense.

5. Dont stress over the holidays

Big winter holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas should break up the winter and give us something to look forward to, but thats not always the case. From worrying about how to afford all the extra expense, to dealing with difficult family members, Psychology Today has identified there are at least ten good reasons the holidays can be stressful for many people.

Try taking back the holiday season this year. Focus on the true meanings behind the celebrations, set a spending limit and keep things simple. Hosting this year? Ask for help. Celebrations can actually be more fun when theyre a joint effort.

6. Cozy up

Im fascinated by the fact that countries with long, cold winters often top the world happiness index. Denmark is usually a clear winner, with countries like Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Canada vying for the other top spots.

Business Insider cites Denmarks social equality, commitment to volunteering and lack of political corruption as key happiness factors, but many journalists have addressed what the Danes refer to as hygge.

The term hygge comes from the Danish word for wellbeing, but tends to be used to describe situations that are warm, cozy, friendly and comforting. Denmark is not a particularly materialistic country. Winter is about lighting a fire, making delicious and nourishing food, and hanging out with family and friends. Maybe we can all learn from that. It sounds like the perfect prescription for winter wellness.
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