9 ways to have a healthier, happier winter

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dr. Poonam Somani

With fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures, you may feel the urge to curl up on the couch more often and lose motivation for leading a healthy lifestyle. WVU Medicine primary care physician Poonam Somani, MD, provides tips to help you live your best life during winter.

1. Get a flu shot to prevent missed work and school.
You can protect yourself from illness and anyone who might be high-risk for the flu, such as children or seniors, by getting a flu vaccine. The flu causes missed work and school hours as well as possible hospitalization. Save yourself and your family the trouble of coping with the flu by getting vaccinated at a WVU Medicine primary care location or at WVU Urgent Care.

2. Wash your hands often.
Handwashing is a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy – if it’s done properly. Scrub your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice if you need a timer.

3. Avoid touching germ-infested surfaces and disinfect.
We all know too well how easy it can be to catch a cold or the flu from someone else. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth since openings in the mucous membrane allow germs into the body. Carry hand sanitizer with you on the go. Clean off phones, computers, and doorknobs using alcohol rubs or disinfecting wipes. Carry a supply of ink pens with you, so you don’t need to use someone else’s at a restaurant, bank, or office.

4. Get sunshine and fresh air.
Layer up in your favorite winter gear and spend a few minutes outside during the winter months when the weather permits. Take a short walk if you’re able. Sunshine will help against a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, and healthy vitamin D levels will boost your immune system. Talk to your primary care provider if you’re experiencing lasting symptoms of depression or anxiety that do not get better with time.

5. Don’t overdo it with comfort food.
We tend to experience more cravings for comfort foods when the temperatures dive and we spend more time indoors. Foods like macaroni and cheese and hearty stews make us feel warm and snug. Soup is a good food choice in winter, but hold the cream, salt, and beef. Try soup recipes that call for low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water as the base and use plenty of vegetables. Consider these recipes: Roasted Winter Squash Soup and Southern Chicken and Dumpling Soup.

6. Be creative with your exercise routine.
If the weather is too cold or snowy to exercise outside, try some of these indoor fitness ideas. Find places to go for a walk like a mall, gymnasium, or community center. Try indoor sports like basketball, tennis, ice skating, or hockey. If there are stairs in your home, do some sprints up and down for a few minutes. Aqua aerobics at a local indoor pool or fitness center would also be beneficial.

7. Make time to socialize.
Staying social boosts your mood and may help your immune system too. Exercise together. Invite friends over for a movie or game night, cook and eat healthy meals together, try an art or pottery class, have a night on the town, or enjoy any other healthy activities that may improve your mental health during winter.

8. Keep your stress levels under control.
We can’t control the world, but we can decide how we react to it. Spend some time by yourself to decompress when you can. Studies show that limiting time on social media may improve your mood. Try a guided meditation for beginners online or simply sit with your eyes closed and breathe normally for two minutes. Visit a local yoga studio. Get a massage. Take a vacation or day trip to mix up your routine. Practicing year round self-care will help you recharge your body and mind.

9. Visit your primary care doctor.
Scheduling an annual visit with a WVU Medicine primary care provider is one of the best things you can do to maintain good health and wellness. We’re here to help you manage any health challenges you face this winter, so please don’t hesitate to let us be a partner in improving your overall well-being. Winter doesn’t have to bring you down!

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE