As the days become darker earlier and the temperature drops, it’s only natural to crave more downtime spent indoors. But while nesting can be cozy, the lack of sunlight and physical activity can impact everything from our energy levels, mood, and immune health, leaving us more susceptible to the colds and flus that are so prevalent at this time of year.

Fortunately there are many things we can do to diminish those winter blues while keeping our bodies healthy and protected as we enter the new season.

1) Eat a Nourishing Diet

The colder weather can leave you craving heavier comfort foods. Rather than reaching for heavy flour-based and fatty dishes, or sugary sweets to soothe your soul, fill up on warming soups and stews, and roasted root veggies. Eat more foods naturally rich in vitamin C like leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, citrus fruits, and kiwi – but skip the fruit juice which is too high in sugar and can negatively impact immune health.

Adding in more fermented foods like plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso that are rich in probiotics can help keep our gut healthy – our first line of defense against harmful pathogens. Oh, and don’t forget to load up on the garlic too for its natural antibiotic effect!

2) Support Your Immune System through Supplementation

Getting as many nutrients as possible through your diet is always ideal, but sometimes we need some extra support. Vitamin D is one such example where it’s difficult to get enough through our food, especially to meet our requirements during the winter months when our bodies can’t naturally manufacture enough of it from sunlight.

The further you live away from the equator in the northern hemisphere, the more you’ll need to supplement. For this population a minimum of 2000 IU is often recommended by natural health practitioners during the winter months, but individual needs will vary. Other immune supporting nutrients and herbs include Vitamin A, C, Zinc, Echinacea, medicinal mushrooms, and supplemental probiotics (among many others).

3) Keep Exercising and Consider Tweaking Your Schedule

Aesthetics aside, there might not be a better natural solution for combating stress and anxiety, lifting our moods, and increasing energy levels. Exercise has a profound effect on our mental health. Unfortunately as the days get shorter, many people’s exercise routines take a back seat as the appeal to “workout” or hit the gym after work greatly diminishes.

If this sounds like you, a great strategy is to start exercising first thing in the morning before work. There’s always a million excuses that come up to prevent us from exercising later in the day – you’re invited out for drinks, your meeting ran late, you’re exhausted. By getting it done and over with earlier, you’ll feel great knowing it’s behind you, and that your evenings are yours to do as you please. It may take a short period of adjustment getting up earlier, but once it becomes a part of your routine you’ll naturally be ready to go to sleep earlier at night, which means waking up earlier won’t feel so hard.

4) Step into the Light and Keep Connected

When the weather is cold and gray it’s tempting to hibernate behind closed doors unless we have an excuse to go outside. Make it a point to get outside for a minimum of 15 minutes each day. Even on cool and cloudy days, outdoor light can positively impact our moods, not to mention the hit of oxygen to our cells can do wonders for our energy levels.

Furthermore, try not to isolate yourself from family and friends, particularly if you live alone. Make regular dates to meet up and connect if possible, and if that’s not an option, consider joining a club or attending classes where there’s an opportunity for developing new relationships. While it’s okay to spend time alone in solitude, which can be healthy in its own right, some social interaction is imperative for brightening our mood and combating the loneliness that can develop over the long winter months ahead.

About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.