With winter well and truly bedded in now and rapping firmly at the door I thought it prudent to get some ideas down about winter wellbeing and how to do your best to avoid those pesky winter colds.
Starting with the basics, the foundations of good health shall we say? We all know these, but lets be honest, after all we are amongst friends, very few of us actually have got the basics down with any consistency; am I right?
Drink more water
The current recommendation is to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. You need to be sloshing back a good 200ml of the good stuff per glass, so in real terms this equates to at least 1600ml per day. Aim for 2 litres if you can and then you’ll easily hit target. Reach for the moon, if you miss at least you’ll fall amongst the stars.
Try to make drinking water a habbit. What I’ve been doing lately is having a bottle with me and every time I check my phone to see what’s happening on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I have a big gulp. It’s amazing how a bad habit can lead to a good one, give it a try.
If you are feeling extra angelic and really want to boost your metabolism as well as you general health, start the day with a warm glass of water infused with lemon. This has an excellent liver cleansing action, which is especially important this time of the year. Bonus, it will make your skin much brighter and give your metabolism a kick-start in the morning. Win-win!
Ahhh, my second favourite ‘S’ word. Sleep is a magical thing, it is the time when our body does all of it’s repair and regeneration work. Essential for both our outer and inner wellbeing, and so all the more important during the winter months. 6-8 hours is the recommendation. I hear mums and dads scoff everywhere! But try your best, that’s all you can do. Even a power nap will help you aggregate those 6-8 hours. 15-20 minutes is ideal, no more otherwise you’re likely to feel lethargic rather then refreshed on waking.
With darker evenings our melatonin levels are likely to be increased and we can generally feel more tired and lack-lustre at this time of year. Listen to your body. If you’re tired, take some rest. Not burning the candle at both ends is key to wellbeing in these colder darker months.
Prepare for sleep by turning off your devices; laptop, phone, iPad etc, at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. The blue light these devices emit stimulate our brain and can make falling asleep difficult. If you can’t prize yourself away (#imguilty), set your device to ‘night-time’ if it has this functionality. This will help a bit.
Taking a warm bath or shower will also help to relax your body and prepare for sleep.
So we have touched on drinking water and getting enough sleep, now to supercharge both. Using a humidifier is not only great for your skin but during the colder winter months, when the central heating goes on and you are battling the elements of the good ol’ British weather, a humidifier will come into it’s own. I have this inexpensive one from Argos, it’s fab.
You can use it alone for the hydrating benefits it will bring to your skin as well as your nasal passages and your throat but I would suggest a few drops of Tea Tree oil and Eucalyptus a few times per week, more if you notice the first niggles of a cold. These essential oils are wonderfully antiseptic and cleansing and will help to remove bugs from your airways before they become problematic.
A word of caution, keep your pets away from essential oils, they’re toxic to them!
Always a contentious one! There’s 2 sides to this argument; on the one side you have the group who feel that a healthy balanced diet should provide you with enough vitamins and minerals not to necessitate supplementation. On the other side you have the realists, like me, who can barely balance an egg in a frying pan, so vitamin supplements are a must.
If you want to have a read of how and where to get you daily dose from, have a read of the NHS website all about vitamins here.
For me, during the winter I like to stock up on the following:
Vitamin C – the hero of the immune show. This one helps to boost you immune system and have you fighting fit. The body doesn’t hold onto vitamin C unfortunately so you do need to keep taking a regular dose to keep your levels up.
You can get Vitamin C from a variety of natural sources but my favourite is Kiwi. Did you know that 1 Kiwi has 6 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange *que fighting in the fruit and veg isle at Waitrose.
B Vitamins – This is a fabulous group of vitamins which help to protect your mucus membranes (not as bad as they sounds) Basically this is the physical barrier between you and invading organisms such as virus and pathogens.
They are also fantastic at helping your body convert the food you eat into energy. This keeps you healthier, balanced and stops your body expending unnecessary energy.
B Vitamins are also credited for helping to balance mood. Particularly useful during these darker colder months.
Natural sources of vitamin B12 and B Complex include
Brown bread and rice
As a vegetarian it is a little difficult to find enough vitamin B12 as it is mostly found in meat products, for vegans it is even harder because the second best source is dairy. If you might be struggling to get enough Vitamin B, consider choosing fortified cereals or vegetables, soy or rice milk, and even consider adding a supplement to support your immune health this winter season.
Vitamin A is a collective group of fat soluble vitamins that help support immune health. Bonus points for this one though as it is also increadibly good for the skin as it includes retinoids; yep, this one has retinal and retinyl esters. You will not only feel great you’ll be looking pretty fab to if you ensure you have enough of this little gem in your diet.
A word of warning though, you can quite easily have to much Vitamin A, so go easy. This is one vitamin that is usuall easy to harvest from a balance diet. Again the vegetarians and vegans are going to struggle with this one as most sources are derived from meat and dairy. However all is not lost, Beta Carotene rich foods are a suitable substitute as the body will change this into vitamin A. Hooray.
Natural sources of Beta Karotene:
Red and Yellow peppers
Dark leafy vegetables
One of my favourite all round vitamins is Berroca. I tend to take this supplement regularly throughout the winter and it gives me an amazing boost of energy. It also helps with mental function and I just feel able to get through these dark dreary months with a little more vigour.
OK kids, this one goes without saying. Regular physical activity is good for you. I know I know, easier said then done. But something is better then nothing. I’m going to be making a conscious effort this year to add in some structured exercise to my daily life. The evidence is overwhelming, from overall improved physical and mental health, regular exercise has even been found to reduce the risk of dementia in old age. It really is a necessity.
Do what you’re comfortable with, whether that’s a 10-minute walk or a 5k run. Ahem, no pressure here. If, like me you’re struggling, look for some guidance an inspiration from the experts. The couch to 5k is a great place to start, you could have a look here, your body will thank you for it.
Keep it clean
My one mantra in life is “use sunscreen”. You can read about my obsession here if you so please. However my second mantra is this, ‘Keep it clean’. Every inch of your body.
Now during the winter season germs are spreading like a viral Vine video so keep something to hand that you can use as and when needed. I never leave home without an alcohol hand gel, particularly during the winter when germs are lurking on every surface.
Also keep tissues with you even if you aren’t coughing and sneezing. Here’s a little trick: Put 3-6 drops of tea tree and eucalyptus essential oil on your tissue and regularly inhale this. The oils work to cleanse the nasopharynx passage, so if any germs are inhaled whilst you’re out and about, this might just reduce the chances of them taking up residence and making you poorly.
Now if you are unlucky this cold season and you do succumb to one of the dreaded lurgies out there, make sure you keep up the fluids, sleep regularly and take your vitamins. It will help your body to fight off the bugs and aid your recovery. In addition you could try these also, to make the recovery as quick and painless as possible:
Also a great one for preventing a cold, Echinacea is a natural plant derivative, a natural herb that is well documented to help support immune health when taken regularly. If however despite best intentions, you have omitted your regular dose, start taking this as soon as symptoms start and it should help to curtail your symptoms much more quickly.
You can take it as a tablet, tincture or even easier still drink it in a cup of herbal fruit tea . Twining’s Raspberry and Echinacea tea is my particular favourite.
Take a dip
Try this little corker. A herbal bath remedy from C.O. Bigelow, a stateside apothecary with providence.
This bath soak turns your bath water an interesting shade of blue, but the natural ingredients including willow bark and eucalyptus will have you feeling human again in no time.
If all else fails, take to your bed with a vat of water and Netflix. That never hurt anyone!
Do you have any tips for staying well this winter? Do share in the comments below.