18 ways to winter-proof your life

Sail through the colder months with these tips for staying at the top of your health, beauty and lifestyle game all winter long.

The mercury is dropping, the skies are darker and the easy joie de vivre of summer and autumn is harder to come by.

But winter can be enjoyed rather than simply endured. Here’s how to get through the season healthier and happier.

1.     Plate up healthier options

A balanced, nutritious diet is crucial for good health – and a basic weapon in the battle against winter bugs.

Variety is the key to getting the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Get a handle on the five food groups you should be hitting each day via the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

2.     Spice it up

Pack your pantry with warming and health-boosting herbs and spices. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your oats in the morning or some boost your soup or roasted vegies with your favourites.

A recent study of turmeric, ginger, long pepper and black pepper uncovered gut-healthy properties – a fast track to a stronger immune system.

3.     Keep moving

Don’t let the cold confine you to the couch.

Heart Foundation active living manager Sheree Hughes says winter lends itself to increasing incidental activity such as taking the stairs or parking further away from your destination, because you don’t get hot and sweaty.

“If you really feel the cold, consider indoor pools, indoor cycling, gyms, indoor sports, and exercising inside your home,” she says.

You could also sign up to a Heart Foundation personal walking plan or free walking group.

4.     Reduce your alcohol intake

Alcohol can affect our mood, sleep and energy levels.

The Cancer Council says reducing your intake will benefit you now, and reduce your risk of cancers and other health problems later. Dry July, anyone?

5.     Practise basic hygiene

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ranks handwashing as one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from illness.

Wash for least 10 to 15 seconds in warm soapy water, especially after coughing or sneezing and before eating.

Use an alcohol-based hand gel if you’re not near water.

6.     Keep your distance

By now we’re all pretty good at staying 1.5 metres away from others when we can.

Also try to avoid people suffering a cold or flu, and stay away from crowded areas during flu season.

Good hygiene habits and physical distancing remain key to preventing the spread of COVID-19 as well.

7.     Get vaccinated

Optimal protection against the flu occurs within the first three to four months following vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the country. Use the eligibility checker to find out when you can access yours.

8.     Protect your hair from the elements

Hair stylist Paula Hibbard says constantly moving from outside cold to artificial inside heat can dehydrate hair.

She recommends washing hair less through winter, and minimising use hair dryers and straighteners.

9.     Shield your skin

Like our hair – and for the same reasons – our skin can dry out in winter.

The Dermatology Institute of Victoria recommends upgrading your summer serum to a thicker cream, staying sun aware despite the gloomier weather and avoiding hot showers.

10.  Harness the power of sleep

The Sleep Health Foundation reports sleep-deprived people may have suppressed immunity, potentially putting them at greater risk of catching viruses.

Good sleep habits are well worth cultivating as winter approaches.

11.  Pot a plant or two

As well as cleaning the air, research shows that plants can make us feel better, too.

12.  Stop rough draughts

A recent study found Australian homes are “leaky” by international standards and older buildings are generally much draughtier.

The CSIRO recommends adopting some tricks to draught-proof your home.

13.  Keep mould at bay

Heavy rain, cold temperatures and heaters all cause condensation that can lead to mould growth, which can cause health problems.

Learn how to ventilate your house and reduce the growth of mould.

14.  Throw open a window

Poor indoor air quality can be harmful to our health.

The EPA advises to avoid smoking inside, use an extractor fan when cooking, and ensure indoor heaters are used properly.

Opening one or two windows for just a few minutes can refresh your air.

Research shows poorly ventilated indoor areas are among the highest-risk venues for spreading COVID-19.

15.  Beware winter home hazards

As you strive to keep warm and cosy, stay alert to possible risks.

About half of all house fires start in the kitchen, and more than four in 10 fire-related deaths happen over winter, latest figures show.

Clean your chimney, and get heaters serviced.

Never use an unflued gas heater in a bedroom, bathroom or other small room with no permanent ventilation.

16.  Get outside

Sunshine may be in scarce supply, but grab what you can. On sunny winter mornings, take your cuppa outside and grab a little Vitamin D.

Take a walk daily to escape the artificially heated home or office and enjoy a range of benefits, including improved creativity .

17.  Rug up to avoid hypothermia

As we age, regulating body temperature can be more difficult.

Retire Australia advises ensuring your home is warm enough and layer your clothing, especially when going out.

The coldest time of day is just before dawn, so have extra blankets, and wear warm layers.

18.  Tap into ‘feel-good’ hormones

Mental health and wellbeing specialist Rae Bonney says natural hormones can ignite many “feel goods” that are useful for a dreary winter.

“Try these – complete a task (releases dopamine); give a compliment (for some natural love drug oxytocin); get active (boost serotonin) and remember laughter is the best medicine (pumping endorphins),” she says.

Written by Donna Carton.