Your well-being is crucial to an engaging, enjoyable lifestyle. But it’s also easy to lose sight of, even in exciting, happy times, like the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in the events or tasks you need to do and not have enough time to take care of yourself. That can lead to illness or being too tired to enjoy your life the way you want to.
Focusing on your wellness can help, ensuring you’re healthy and able to appreciate your life.
To maintain good health, adults need to take a holistic wellness approach. That means focusing not just on physical wellness, but caring for mental and spiritual needs as well. It’s easier to be active and healthy in the summer, particularly if you live in an area that experiences colder winters. The cold makes it harder to get outside and exercise and the shorter days can put a damper on your mood.
Fortunately, there are techniques for maintaining wellness in colder seasons. Here are eight healthy living tips that will help keep you safe, healthy and happy throughout the winter months.
When it comes to winter wellness, keeping your hands clean is frequently close to the top of everyone’s list – and with good reason. Winter is cold and flu season. Keeping your hands clean and free of germs will go a long way towards helping you avoid both of them.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water over hand sanitizer. Thorough handwashing often removes germs and dirt from areas that hand sanitizer doesn’t touch and is more effective at removing certain types of germs. Hand sanitizer is a good second choice, but keep in mind that it only reduces the amount of microbes on your hands, it doesn’t eliminate all germs. Many people don’t use it properly, which further reduces its effectiveness.
Coming down with the flu is a serious concern for adults. According to the CDC, 50-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in adults aged 65 years and older. The best way to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot. Best of all, Medicare Part B covers the cost of one flu shot every flu season.
The season’s dreary, shortened days cause some people to deal with wintertime depression — commonly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is not limited to adults or any specific age range and affects up to 10% of the population, leading to feelings of irritability, sadness and depression.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of getting seasonal affective disorder or combat it once it does affect you is to use a sun lamp that simulates sunlight. Known as phototherapy, sun lamps give off UV rays, providing your body with the healthy boost of vitamin D your body needs. Dedicated SAD lightboxes that do not emit UV rays are available as well. Remember, not just any light will give you the effects you need. A sun lamp is 100 times stronger than a normal light bulb and emits white or blue light.
Omega 3 fatty acids can also help because they play a critical role in the function of the central nervous system. Healthy sources for Omega-3 fatty acids that you can include in your diet are:
Omega-3 fatty acids also act as natural anti-inflammatories, helping to reduce joint pain and stiffness, another issue that often goes hand-in-hand with the cold winter months.
Speaking of vitamin D… it can be hard to get enough during the winter months since most vitamin D is manufactured by the body when sunlight hits the skin. That’s a big part of seasonal affective disorder, but low levels of vitamin D can lead to a variety of other wellness issues including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, depression and joint pain. Ensuring that you regularly get enough vitamin D during winter months can help improve your health year-round.
Aside from getting vitamin D from sun exposure, you can also get it by the consumption of salmon, shrimp and fortified dairy products. Supplements can be taken as well. See your healthcare practitioner if you believe you’re not getting enough vitamin D.
You hear it all the time: eat healthy. But during cold and flu season, it’s more important than ever. A nutrient-dense diet is the best defense against illness and disease. A healthy diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.
Although it can be difficult to find some fruits and vegetables during the cold winter months, try to fill your plate with lots of colors. Colors in fruits and vegetables are caused by strong pigments, which are also what benefits your body. For example, anthocyanin is the deep-blue pigment found in wild blueberries. It’s also an antioxidant that helps improve your health. The more colorful fruits and vegetables you eat, the more likely it is that you’re eating a healthy diet.
Exercise is important for mental and physical health, but cold temperatures, snow and ice all make it difficult to stay physically active outside. To make matters worse, cold weather is hard on your heart, with the potential to impact circulation and exacerbate heart conditions. Therefore, you might want to limit your exercise sessions to the indoors.
Our article, Fun Low-Impact Exercises for Older Adults, provides several exercise options you can do safely indoors. Additionally, you can never go wrong with chair exercises. YouTube offers numerous video routines that can help you get started. Just look around until you find one you like. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins — natural feel-good brain chemicals. You’ll have more energy and you’ll feel better mentally and physically. If you’re interested in getting started, take a look at our fitness programs.
Circulation and metabolism typically slow down as adults get older. These biological changes make you more susceptible to the effects of cold weather and place you at a higher risk of having winter health issues such as frostbite and hypothermia. Adults aged 65 and over are especially vulnerable to hypothermia, which can develop from even a relatively mild exposure to the cold, such as spending a few hours playing in the snow with your grandchildren. While it’s still unlikely that you’ll get hypothermia, it’s better to be prepared.
To reduce your risk of hypothermia:
Simple, yet effective. Spending time doing activities and hobbies you love, with friends and relatives is the best way to improve your mood, putting you in a good mental space. Sink down into a nice warm down comforter and enjoy a good book or movie. Get out and do activities with your friends, neighbors and relatives. Have people over and entertain. Stay connected with friends and family using video calls, phone calls, emails or texts.
If you live in a community like Aspire at Carriage Hill, take advantage of the activities on the calendar. Social and cultural activities are always planned, both in the community and in the surrounding area, to keep residents engaged and help them explore new interests.
Wellness should be part of your routine year-round, but it’s particularly important during the winter, when colder temperatures and shorter days play a larger role in our lives.
At Aspire at Carriage Hill, we help residents maintain their wellness year-round with a holistic wellness philosophy that emphasizes physical, social, intellectual and spiritual wellness. To learn more about our community, contact one of our friendly community specialists. We’re happy to talk to you about wellness and how a supportive living community can help you live a more engaging, fulfilling lifestyle.