It’s no easy task to stay healthy in the winter. With falling temps, shorter days, endless holiday season commitments, and the fact that everyone around you seems to be sniffling, it can feel like a challenge to keep your energy levels up and fend off colds, the flu, or the seasonal depressive symptoms that peak in the winter months. That’s why it’s so important to develop rituals that keep you happy, healthy, and energized to take on one of the busiest seasons of the year.
We asked members of the Thrive community to share their best tips for staying mentally and physically healthy in the winter. Their tips will keep your mind and body in tip top shape to fully embrace the holiday cheer.
Make a joy list and incorporate it into your day
“First, know what brings you fulfillment, and then secondly, make sure to do those things! Start by making a list of the people, places, and things that bring you joy. This could be anything from workout classes and candles to green smoothies or your favorite friend. At the beginning of every week or every day, make a plan for when you are going to incorporate a person, place, or thing from your joy list into each day.”
—Meghan Nechrebecki, healthcare CEO, Los Angeles, CA
Find your winter ritual
“I go on two-mile sunset walks all bundled up at least twice a week, drink lots of herbal tea, intentionally schedule friend dates, play squash, and sleep at least eight hours a night.”
—Awilda Rivera, success coach, Atlanta GA
Set a positive mood with lighting
“My key to surviving the dark and dismal days of winter has been a bright light therapy lamp. I cannot stand waking up when it’s dark outside. My therapy lamp helps me get much-needed light when I can’t get outdoors, and helps me wake up and stay awake!”
—Brandon Landgraf, digital marketing manager, Cleveland, OH
“I have fairy lights and candles everywhere. I see winter as a beautiful time to indulge in staying indoors and making my surroundings as cosy as possible. If I must leave the house, I go to a ‘hotpod yoga’ class, where I practice yoga in a heated pod that fills my body with warmth and keeps me mentally and physically nourished.”
—Sophie French, self-belief coach, Leicester, U.K.
Winter-ize your diet
“My family starts each day with a cup of tea with honey, lemon, and fresh ginger to warm up our bodies and support our immune systems. I also add hot soups to our dinner menu — our favorites are a bowl of classic chicken soup, carrot and ginger bisque, and spicy vegetable stew.”
—Joanna Echols, executive wellness and leadership expert, Glastonbury, CT
Plan holiday events early
“Planning out our holiday schedule in advance is one of the ways I stay mentally healthy in the winter. I’m easily overwhelmed, and as a wife and mom of three, I’ve found that mapping out our schedule is one of the ways I prevent myself from getting off balance and scrambling at the last minute. Holiday meals are important events in our family. Aside from choosing who will host the meal, the menu is just as important. I delegate certain tasks and keep track of who has committed to what, so I know that everything will turn out just right.”
—Brittany Chatman, lifestyle blogger, Tampa, FL
Keep your body moving (and nourished)
“Get outside during daytime hours, even on overcast, gray days. Being outdoors and breathing fresh, cold air never fails to give me an energy boost and lighten my mood. And I keep moving! Whether it’s yoga, using kettlebells, or walking, movement ups my energy levels and immunity. I also make sure to eat more fruit and more veggies to boost my fiber, vitamins, and mineral intake to fend off colds and other winter miseries.”
—Ginny Grabowski, nutrition and lifestyle coach, Anchorage, AK
“I prioritize sleep, especially during cold and flu season, since research suggests that too little can drastically increase your risk of contracting the common cold. Another key priority is self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Winter brings additional challenges, and being late to work due to the weather or feeling overly self-critical due to seasonal mood fluctuations can really be a challenge. I need to see things clearly in these difficult months, so I focus on being compassionate and forgiving toward myself. These two things buoy my spirit, lift my mood, and bring a stronger sense of vitality to each day.”
—Loren Toussaint, psychology professor, Decorah, IA
Find an adventure, no matter the weather
“Last year, my friend and I made a commitment to run together in the morning twice a week, no matter what the weather was like. We ran through sideways rain and snow. We wore headlamps to light our path in the dark. We also enjoyed running on some beautiful, clear mornings, too. After each run, we’d take a picture together and at the end of the winter, I made a little video collage of our running adventures. Find a friend who is up for adventure and will help you stay accountable to enjoying your favorite activity no matter what the season or weather. Everything is more fun when we have a friend at our side – even sideways rain!”
—Emily Madill, author and life coach, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada
Take health precautions before travel
“My family travels a lot, and it’s crucial to keep everyone healthy when you’re bopping from here to there. I keep my kids healthy on the plane in a few ways: I always wipe down the tray table, seatbelt, and armrests on the plane. My kids only drink water — no sugary drinks when we’re in flight. I pack some junk food, but also healthy snacks like grapes, which keep their immune systems humming. Lastly, I enforce tablet-free chunks of time, which makes my kids more likely to nap if we’ve caught an early flight.”
—Catherine Ryan Gregory, family travel blogger, Portland, OR
Try a group fitness class
“I stay fit in the cooler months by enrolling in group classes focused on music and dance. Dance is a great way to jog your memory and keep the mind stimulated, because you have to remember choreography. Dance isn’t just stimulating for the brain; it also happens to be one of the best cardio workouts.”
—Kate MacLean, public relations generalist, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Focus on resilience
“The secret to staying healthy in the winner is to build and maintain your resilience. Resilience is your body’s ability to snap back after stress or trauma. Staying healthy in the winter is not all that different from staying healthy in other seasons. Eat right and exercise. Avoid mental junk food — when it’s cold and snowy, it’s easy to sit in front of a computer screen reading social network garbage. This can have a profound effect on your mood and overall sense of well-being. And don’t neglect your spiritual side. If you feel like staying inside, why not use that time to reflect, set goals, meditate, pray, or engage in some other spiritual activity.”
—Phil La Duke, global business consultant and author, Detroit, MI
Break your routine every now and again
“In the wintertime, it is easier for your everyday routine to cause sadness or even depression. You leave work and it’s cold and dark, so you go straight home and wish for the weekend. One way to keep your emotional state in check is to make sure you make plans for the middle of the week that get you out of your routine. Do something different each week, either with someone or by yourself. It can be as simple as seeing the movie you wanted to, taking a meditation class, or going rock climbing. Having something to look forward to during the week helps keep the blues away.”
—Jackie Ghedine, life and business coach, Bellmore, NY
Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.