According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season usually peaks around February and can last as long as until May. The common cold is also a big problem throughout the winter months mainly due to the fact that people tend to spend more time indoors and therefore spread their germs to others more easily.
You can protect yourself from getting sick by eating nutritious foods high in vitamins and minerals, getting enough sleep, managing stress, washing your hands regularly and even getting a flu shot. These things are all pretty obvious, but there are a few more obscure habits you probably already do that could potentially give your immune system a bit of a boost.
Consider picking out one or two from the list below that you can incorporate more frequently into your daily life this winter to help keep you healthy until cold and flu season finally lets up in the spring.
1. Take cold showers.
Cold showers in the wintertime might seem like the worst idea ever, but if you can handle it, it may actually do you some good. According to a 1993 research study by the Thrombosis Research Institute, people who took cold showers showed an increase in the amount of disease-fighting white blood cells they had compared to people who took hot showers. It appeared that the metabolic rate increased as a way to warm the body up, which activated the immune system and released more white blood cells.
2. Freshen up your home with some essential oils.
Rosemary, peppermint, lavender, lemon and ravensara are just a few essential oils known to have immune boosting properties. All you have to do is choose one you like to use with a diffuser in your home so you can inhale its scent and enjoy its natural healing properties. You could also add a few drops to a bath and breathe in the aroma from the steam.
3. Watch funny movies.
They say laughter is the best medicine, and science has proven it to be true. Laughter helps your body release endorphins—the same feel-good chemicals you get from exercise and other pleasurable activities. One particular study found that laughter increased killer-cell activity and infection-fighting antibodies. Even something as subtle as anticipating a funny situation can make an impact on immunity.
4. Listen to good music.
In a similar way that laughter makes you feel good, music has the power to enhance immunity by positively impacting your emotions. Certain mental and emotional states can alter the activity and balance of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates practically every part of the immune system. Negative emotions increase cortisol levels and suppress the immune system while positive emotions reduce cortisol levels and increase parasympathetic activity. In other words, you’re going to want to listen to music that puts you in a good mood.
5. Get frisky with your partner.
As long as your partner isn’t fighting off a cold or flu, having regular sex could help protect the both of you from catching it. In a study that looked at sexually active couples, it was discovered that those who had sex more frequently showed higher levels of immunoglobulin (IgA), which is a cold-fighting antibody.
And there you have it—five common habits anyone can use to give their immune system a nice little boost when sickness is a threat. When combined with the other obvious healthy lifestyle habits detailed in the beginning of this article (like eating right, sleeping well and managing stress) then you can bet that your body will be ready as ever to fight off any infectious germs you come into contact with.