During the cold months we can often feel bombarded by illnesses, our energy may dip considerably, we can feel low and irritable without the warmth of the sunshine. With Covid-19 so prevalent it is even more important that we take steps towards supporting and strengthening our immune system, so it can function at its fullest and protect us from all the wintery bugs.
Here are some favourite top tips that myself and a few other wellbeing practitioners from our Feel Good Norfolk Collective enjoy using and would like to share with you.
Not only is it deliciously warming, but ginger is also great at reducing inflammation in the body and increasing the immune response. It is loaded with antioxidants and has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties too, which means it is cleansing and protective of our bodily cells.
Ginger is great for the gut too, helping to reduce inflammation and move food through the intestine. Considering 70-80% of our immunity is housed in our guts, keeping this area of our body happy and moving well is super beneficial.
Therefore, (as long as you don’t have too much heat in your body already, e.g. you have a high temperature or you are experiencing hot flushes), including ginger regularly in your diet may help to keep your immune system healthy.
You can use it in your cooking, pop it in a smoothie, or you can enjoy it in a tea by simply grating approximately a teaspoon of fresh ginger into your favourite mug and adding hot water.
2. Prioritise quality sleep
The saying “you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep” really does ring true!
Research has shown how good quality sleep boosts the T Cells (white blood cells) in the body that fight off infection, so they are an essential part of the immune system, and we definitely want more of them.
It can differ from person to person, but ideally we need 7-9 hours of sleep. Any less the body simply doesn’t have time to restore, rejuvenate and recharge as it needs to.
By ensuring the body can fully rest it is able to move into the rest and digest state where all the healing happens.
You can improve, not only the quantity, but also the quality of your sleep by creating better sleep habits.
A good bedtime ritual goes a long way to getting a better night’s sleep, our brains love the repetitive cues included in a regular routine. By doing a few things each evening in the same order to prepare you for bedtime is great for calming the nervous system. This could include dimming the lights, having a warm bath, some gentle yoga, reading a book.
The blue light from LED screens reduces the production of melatonin (which helps us sleep) so switching off all screens an hour before bed can be super beneficial. Avoiding consuming caffeine in the afternoon and not eating a big dinner too late in the evening will help to reduce the stimulus that can keep you awake or cause a restless sleep pattern.
Using your bedroom for just sleeping, as opposed to an office or gym, will help to ensure your brain knows this is the space it can truly rest. Keep the room clutter free, comfortable, dark, quiet, and calm and you will more likely enjoy catching a lot more zzzzzzz’s!
3. Cold showers or even going for a cold water swim!
When the body has to adjust to the cold it moves into a ‘stressed state’ we can start to feel panicked, and it can feel very similar to how we feel when anxious or experiencing a panic attack. Through deep breath work and focusing the mind, the body begins to respond as it needs to. The blood flows faster around the body to warm us up.
So, amongst many great benefits, cold water showers or swimming increases circulation, improves mental resilience, reduces stress and increases our ability to manage stress, and then YES, it boosts the immune system!!
We challenge you to turn the temperature down at the end of your next shower for 30 seconds. Breathe, you can do it. Start there, then increase the time until you can just jump straight in with the shower set to cold or, if you are feeling super brave, into a river or the sea!
4. Vitamin D
Otherwise known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as it is produced in the body when we are exposed to sunlight. Our body needs Vitamin D for bone growth and to support the immune system. Therefore, due to limited supplies of sunshine during the winter, you may like to consider how you can increase this through eating foods high in vitamin D, including fish, egg yolks, and in fortified grains and dairy, as well as investing in a good quality supplement.
5. Touch therapies
Natural therapies such as massage, reflexology, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy or herbology, to name but a few, are all tools we can use to access our own bodies healing capabilities.
It is the opportunity to check in regularly to maintain a sense of equilibrium in the body and regain some balance when things are a little out of kilter. Each person is different as to which therapy / therapist resonates with them but, once we find one that works for us, it is worth incorporating it into our monthly selfcare plan. Through the relaxation these therapies can provide, stress is reduced, and when we are less stressed our body can function with more strength and vitality.
Do things that make you feel good!
Because when you do something that makes you feel good you get a hit of oxytocin and this brilliant hormone has a calming effect, reduces the stress hormone cortisol (which weakens are immunity), and naturally promotes better sleep.
Doing the things that bring you peace and joy, that make you feel cosy and warm inside, will do wonderful things to create the protective armour on the outside to help keep you stronger this winter.