Is this long, cold winter bringing you down? After weeks of frigid weather, sometimes just the thought of one more snow shoveling marathon or fighting with the stubborn ice on your windshield can be enough to produce tears.
When the winter doldrums set in, moods can tank hard. And to make things worse, all those negative emotions can wreak havoc with your immune system. If winter is seriously starting to get to you, these four secrets may be the ticket to feeling like your best self again.
Secret #1: Exposure to Cold Temps Can Be Good for You!
Many of us have become accustomed to thinking that winter weather is, well...kind of evil. But the truth is that cold can actually benefit your health—and it may even add years to your life! One study found that lower temperatures significantly increased the lifespans of certain worms, which may hold true for humans as well.1
In many Nordic communities, napping outdoors in the cold and taking a short dip or swim in icy waters are considered invigorating, healthy practices. Recent science strongly supports this belief and shows evidence that brief cold-water immersion directly stimulates the immune system and boosts happy endorphins as well, which also activates immune activity.2,3 So if you decide to try a “Polar Bear Plunge” for charity, or step into the shower before the water has had a chance to warm up, you may actually be doing your immune system a favor!
During the winter months, it’s also nice to know that the cold weather can help get your body swimsuit-ready when summer rolls around. That’s because those shivery temps make you burn extra calories so it becomes easier to reach your ideal weight.4 Winter sports like ice-skating, skiing, and cold weather nature walks let you make the most of winter’s body-beautifying effects.
Secret #2: You Can Compensate for the Effects of Shorter Days
Less daylight during the winter months means you get less exposure to full-spectrum light and fewer opportunities to synthesize vitamin D from the sun than you do at other times of the year. For many people, these factors contribute to a bad case of the winter blues.5 Taking care of your mood is important because positive emotions help boost your immune system and make you feel better all around.6
It may be helpful to spend time outdoors as often as you can during wintertime (even if you don’t really feel like it). Just a short walk around the block with your dog may be enough to significantly cheer you up! If you find you’re still feeling down, supplementing with vitamin D and/or working with light therapy that mimics the sun’s light spectrum may do the trick to brighten your mood.7,8
Secret #3: A Little “Hygge” Goes a Long Way
We all know winters in Denmark are about as intense as they can get, yet people in this region are some of the happiest on the planet. This could be because the Danish people have figured out a unique way to experience comfort, warmth, and even joy during the most mind-numbing cold conditions.
The Danish word “hygge” (pronounced hYOOguh) loosely translates to “cozy.” It’s that safe, snuggly feeling you get when you hang out with close friends on a stormy night in the glow of a roaring fire, or cuddle up in a couch blanket with someone you love—a sense of warmth, connection, and sanctuary,a light in the deepest darkness. To bring a little hygge into your winter experience:
• Brew some fragrant herbal tea to sip with loved ones.
• Bake organic whole grain bread to enjoy hot from the oven.
• Slip into some soft, thick socks. Or make sock puppets with your kids and have a puppet show while you warm your hands!
• Light pretty candles during family dinner. Or if you’re worried about safety with little ones, try flameless candles instead.
• Invite friends for a winter potluck party with music, decorations, and dancing.
• Take a steaming cup of coffee outside on a cold, clear night and watch the stars with your hands wrapped around the warm cup.
• Build a blanket fort with your kids (or significant other!), and cuddle up reading stories together.
• Schedule a couch movie night by the glow of a Himalayan salt lamp, complete with soft, fuzzy throws and warm spiced beverages.
Hygge also involves specifically nurturing yourself during the cold months, so surrender into a delicious nap when you feel the urge. And wear your favorite scarf around the house if you’re feeling chilled.
Secret #4: Taking Care of Your Gut Helps You Handle Winter Challenges
It may seem surprising, but one of the best ways to counteract the winter blahs is to show your gut some kindness. Inside your digestive tract (and on the surface of your body) is a community of trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome.9 About 85% of this community is ideally comprised of friendly bacteria called probiotics that crowd out undesirable strains and work with your immune system to keep your mind and body healthy. Since about 80% of your immune system is located in the gut, a balanced microbiome helps it function efficiently.
Many aspects of modern life—including stress and exposure to GMOs, pesticides, and certain medicines—harm probiotics, giving unwanted bacteria room to grow and multiply. When your microbiome goes out of balance you may feel under the weather more often, overreact to everyday stressors, have trouble maintaining your ideal weight, have tummy troubles, suffer bad breath, and not feel your best in countless other ways.
Supplementing with a high-quality probiotic like Hyperbiotics Immune supports your friendly flora so your mind, body, and spirit can soar through even the toughest winters. Targeted formulas such as women’s probiotics and those for mature adults, children, and even pets help you and your loved ones feel terrific despite plummeting temps. And once the climate in your microbiome is favorable, you’ll truly be able to thrive in any weather.
1.Xiao, R., Zhang, B., Dong, Y., Gong, J., Xu, T., Liu, J., & Xu, X. Z. (2013). A genetic program promotes C. elegans longevity at cold temperatures via a thermosensitive TRP channel. Cell, 4, 806–817.
2. JanskÃ½, L., PospÃsilovÃ¡, D., HonzovÃ¡, S., UlicnÃ½, B., SrÃ¡mek, P., Zeman, V., & KamÃnkovÃ¡, J. (1996). Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 5-6, 445–450.
3. Leppäluoto, J., Westerlund, T., Huttunen, P., Oksa, J., Smolander, J., Dugué, B., & Mikkelsson, M. (2008). Effects of long‐term whole‐body cold exposures on plasma concentrations of ACTH, beta‐endorphin, cortisol, catecholamines and cytokines in healthy females. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation,68(2), 145-153.
4. Lichtenbelt, W. v., Kingma, B., van der Lans, A., & Schellen, L. (2014). Cold exposure--an approach to increasing energy expenditure in humans. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism: TEM, 4, 165–167.
5. Eyles, D. W., Smith, S., Kinobe, R., Hewison, M., & McGrath, J. J. (2005). Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1 alpha-hydroxylase in human brain. Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 1, 21–30.
6. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Turner, R. B., Alper, C. M., & Skoner, D. P. Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 4, 652–657.
7. KjÃ¦rgaard, M., Waterloo, K., Wang, C. E., AlmÃ¥s, B., Figenschau, Y., Hutchinson, M. S., Svartberg, J., & Jorde, R. (2012). Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case-control study and randomised clinical trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry :The Journal of Mental Science, 5, 360–368.
8. Tyrer, A. E., Levitan, R. D., Houle, S., Wilson, A. A., Nobrega, J. N., Rusjan, P. M., & Meyer, J. H. (2016). Serotonin transporter binding is reduced in seasonal affective disorder following light therapy. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 5, 410–419.
9. Panda, S., Guarner, F., & Manichanh, C. (2014). Structure and functions of the gut microbiome. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets, 4, 290–299.
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