It’s winter – a season we’re all too familiar with here in Wisconsin. Frigid temperatures impact us in ways beyond dressing warmer & shoveling snow; cold weather has adverse effects on our immune system, heart, and mental health.
Winter Risk Factors
Winter months are often referred to as “flu season”, with an association of increased sickness. Research  indicates that there is truth to this: being cold diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection and lower temperatures keep viruses active & infectious for longer . In tandem, these factors suppress immune function & opportunities for infection increase.
In addition to the immune system, chilly weather can leave the heart at risk. Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure; and in turn, increasing risk of a heart attack or stroke .
The brain faces winter-induced challenges as well, with many experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as temperatures lower; associated with feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, social withdrawal, fatigue, and lack of concentration. The exact cause is unknown, but researchers believe certain hormones trigger mood related changes and cause neurotransmitter imbalances during the winter when we experience the least sunlight .
Tips for taking extra care of yourself in winter:
Maintain a well balanced diet
There are so many delicious foods to indulge in all winter long – but it is important to pay attention to what you’re eating. Diets high in processed & refined foods have been linked to worsening of mood disorders; and diets lacking essential nutrients will leave your body at risk of cold weather’s adverse health effects. Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C , iron , & zinc  are crucial for maintaining a strong immune system fit to fight off invading viruses. We have some special menu recommendations for these vitamins & minerals:
- Skinny Greens: double servings of kale & spinach make this juice the best source of iron, zinc & Vitamin C we offer
- Cinnamon Cashew Mylk: cashews are a rich source of iron, zinc & helps lower blood pressure
- Wisconsin Roots: beets help bolster heart function & lower blood pressure
- Cinnamon Apple Oats: rich source of iron & zinc from oats & hemp seeds paired with healthy fats & protein sources
- Raw Raspberry Cheesecake: loaded with iron & zinc from a base of cashews and oats, and bolstered with the delicious flavors of raspberry and lemon (which are both rich in Vitamin C)
Stay active physically & mentally
While being sedentary is not the sole cause of feelings of anxiety, sadness, or stress that come with SAD, exercise could help relieve the symptoms of it. Exercise has been linked to endorphin release , a hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure. This time of year does make it more difficult to maintain activity levels, especially with mounds of snow on the ground outside. However, if possible, regular exercise can keep endorphins flowing through the brain and aiding to maintain our mental health in winter.
Exercise isn’t the only practice linked to endorphin release. A 2014 analysis  of meditation found this practice reduces stress & anxiety and promotes emotional health in addition to endorphin release.
Boost your bliss
Everyone loves chocolate – and science agrees that it is a fantastic bliss booster. Cacao powder is unprocessed cocoa, which maintains all of its nutritional value. It contains four scientifically proven bliss chemicals  – serotonin, tryptophan, tyrosine, & phenylethamine. These are associated with feelings of well-being & happiness.
- Chocoholic Smoothie Bowl: healthy & delicious source of cacao to deliver all the bliss chemicals you need, in addition to an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, & minerals
And chocolate isn’t the only way to boost bliss; cultivate a positive mindset by allocating time to spend with friends and family, time spent enjoying your favorite activities, and a project or hobby to occupy spare free time. Productivity is awesome for mental health, and can limit time spent focusing on negative intrusive thoughts.
Getting enough sleep is extremely important – especially when it comes to managing symptoms associated with SAD such as stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression . Maintaining a consistent schedule and limiting factors like screen-time before bed can aid in improving troubled sleep patterns.