20 ways to stay healthy (and happy) this winter season

BY LISA BYRNE

The change in seasons is well upon us and it's a perfect time to take a look at ways we can keep ourselves healthy and balanced.

As the cold moves in, we need to shift our wellness routine to respond to the changes it brings.

Here are 20 ways you can create a winter wellness plan that works for you.

1. Bring out the crock pot! Emphasis slow cooked, warm, moist meals this season. Soups are a perfect match for the cold, dry days.

2. We gravitate toward richer foods in the winter for good reason -- we need to stay warm, lubricated and healthy.  Allow yourself to indulge in high quality dairy, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, organic meats, and healthy fats -- you can feel satisfied without jumping on the sugar train.

3. With the increase in heavier foods, be sure to increase spices and foods that help keep digestion lively. Many of these foods and spices have the added benefit of boosting your immune system because they are antibacterial. Try adding dark leafy greens, berries, garlic, onions, ginger, cumin, oregano, and cinnamon to your recipes whenever you can.

4. Pay attention if your skin feels tighter these days; you may need to switch to a hardier natural moisturizer like cocoa butter.

5. Prioritize sleep and follow the sun's lead. As the days get shorter, shift your sleep routine toward going to bed earlier and to allow your body more hours to rest and repair.

6. Use humidifiers to keep the air you are breathing moist.

7. If you use a neti pot to help keep your sinuses clear,  swab your inner nose with a q-tip dabbed in coconut oil or olive oil when you are done to be sure you don't over dry that area.

8.  Be proactive about preventing ear infections.  Warm up garlic oil (sold in natural health food stores) to body temperature and put a dropper full into each ear canal.

9. We breathe a lot more indoor air in the winter, so be especially careful to keep it clean and free of toxins. Rotate an air purifier into different rooms.

10. Let indoor green plants help keep your air clean and fresh.

11. Diffuse essential oils to increase the negative ion count in your air (shown to help mitigate the effects of seasonal affective disorder).

12. Keep physically active during the winter to bolster mental health and physical immunity.

13. If you are a walker or runner, invest in a set of cold weather workout clothes so your can keep up your routine as the temperature dips.

14. Shift to indoor activities : yoga, stretching, dance, toning and aerobics can all be done via a DVD in your living room.

15. Join a gym or group workout class to keep connected and accountable to getting your workout in.

16. Get social! Stay connected to others, even as your activities shift more and more indoors. Join a moms' group or book club that meets regularly.

17. Replace outdoor kid's outings with indoor ones, like book time at the library or trips to the museum.

18. Strengthen your body's defenses by keeping your gut healthy.  Consume foods that have natural probiotics (like yogurt, kefir, miso soup, cultured vegetables, sauerkraut), or take a high quality supplement.

19. If you take fish oil supplements, shift to cod liver oil supplements for the winter. These have the added benefit of vitamin A and D (great for months when our access to vitamin D producing sunshine is limited).

20. Finally, make a Feel Good menu specifically for winter. Take a moment to brainstorm all the things you can do in winter that you enjoy, that feel indulgent, and that make you happy. Keep this list posted and draw from it to make your days more special and when you need a little extra pampering.

Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Brew your favorite herbal tea

  • Sip a cup of warm apple cider

  • Simmer orange peels and cinnamon sticks over the stove to scent the whole house

  • Curl up with a blanket and favorite book or magazine

  • Take a mid-day stretch

  • Work on an art or craft you love

  • Turn on some good music

  • Cook a special mea

  • Give yourself a foot or neck massage with a scented oil

  • Take a warm long bubble bath after the kids are asleep

  • Stroll through a bookstore-museum-art gallery-thrift shop

  • Drive around and look at the Christmas lights

  • Rent your favorite movie and pop popcorn

  • Bake cookies

  • Take a brisk walk in the afternoon when the sun is out

What would be on your "Feel Good" list this winter?