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5 Tips to Thrive (not just survive) in Winter

October 31, 2018

By Jocelyn Weiss, PhD, MPH

Winter is not just a time of hibernation for bears, but us humans as well. The colder temperatures have a way of keeping us inside, decreasing our energy levels, bringing down our mood, and making us less likely to do those activities and forms of self-care that are supportive of our health and well-being. Our minds and bodies crave the warmth, safety, and comfort of home. It’s actually physiological.

warm blanket wrapped around a person holding a mug

Here are a few tips to help support your health and well-being during the colder months:

Don’t hibernate but get enough sleep.

More and more research has shown that sleep is a necessity, not optional, part of our overall health and well-being. During sleep is when our brain and body slow down and reset for the next day. Though needs may vary somewhat by individual, it is recommended that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel and perform at our best. Note that more is not necessarily better when it comes to sleep. Sleeping more than the recommended 7-9 hours is linked with many of the same health risks as sleeping too little,

Stay (or get) active.

On the flip side of rest, is movement. Physical activity is not only important for keeping our bodies strong and healthy, but also our minds. Exercise has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you are finding it challenging to be active outdoors during the Winter, consider exploring other indoor options such as working out at home or joining a gym. Group activities and sports can also provide a source of support and accountability during those times we would rather be curled up under a blanket at home.

Eat foods rich in vitamin D.

With significantly less time spent outside during the colder months, we miss out on the vitamin D that comes naturally from the sun. To continue getting its bone health, immunity, and other benefits, you can aim to get vitamin D through your diet or supplements. Food sources that are rich in vitamin D include wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, mushrooms, eggs, or vitamin D fortified foods (e.g. cow, almond, or soy milk).

Find a hobby.

These next few months make for a great time to take on a new hobby you might have been interested in or to dive into those books on your to-read list. You can even make them social by joining a group (e.g. knitting group, book club) or taking a class.

Spend time with friends and family.

The health benefits of strong, high-quality relationships and connections are far-reaching for our physical and emotional health. These relationships not only bring pleasure and joy to our lives but help to support us through the challenges. It also adds to our health to be there for others, Reach out and spend time with those people to whom you feel most connected.

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