‘Tis the season – and a wild one at that – and regardless of your health or vaccination status, taking personal responsibility for your health is more important than ever. No matter what, it’s paramount to strengthen your body’s own defenses so that your immune system is strong and up to any challenge it faces.

Here are five (very!) simple things I’m doing this year to keep my immune system in good shape:

1. Start the day right with 24oz of hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon, a pinch of unrefined sea salt, and a spoonful of coconut oil. This is a practice I implemented years ago on the recommendation of one of my fellow practitioners and something I bring out as the weather cools and the days grow shorter.  My body loves it! I drink this every morning before I eat or drink anything else, and it starts off my day alkalinized, hydrated, and soothed. Not to mention it’s delicious.

2. I get outside for a walk or run every day. I used to struggle with this one when I first moved from sunny, warm, and most notably dry Los Angeles to the cold, dark, and incredibly wet Portland winters, and I had to relearn how to get outside regardless of the weather. I know how good it is to get outside every day for some form of movement – be that walking, riding your bike, running, whatever it is – and last year with my increased running training I had to push through any excuses I had, even in major downpours. And you know what? No matter how bad it was outside and how hard it was to push myself out the door, I never once regretted getting out there. In fact, in those runs where it was truly miserable and I was pretty much the only person on the roads, I was most proud of my efforts and resilience. And a nice hot shower or bath never felt so good or well earned.  Remember: getting fresh air is important all the time – gym workouts are great, but they don’t replace the health benefits of getting outside.

3. Drink my bone broth daily. I’m not regular with this in the summer when it’s hot, but in the winter, this is my staple. I add in a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt to boost the flavor and drink it like tea. If I don’t drink it straight, I incorporate it into the family’s meal – soups, stews, slow-cooker meals, even using it to cook grains such as rice – all are great vehicles for bone broth. A cup a day keeps the doctor away!

4. Prioritize sleep. Our bodies are naturally tuned to the seasons and earth’s natural biorhythms, even if we spend the majority of our time indoors. It’s totally natural and normal to crave more sleep at this time of year. What’s not normal – or healthy – is to override that urge by forcing ourselves through with more caffeine and willpower. I am an early bird at the best of times and fully indulge this urge in the winter months. I am in bed most nights by 9pm latest and I let myself sleep as long as I am able, usually for a solid 8-9 hours. That might sound excessive, but I bet if you gave yourself permission to do the same, you’d find your body relaxing into deeper, longer sleep. Did you know that your body does its deepest cleaning and healing while you sleep? It’s a critical time for recovery, so don’t skimp on it.

5. Keep the holiday treats out of the house as much as possible. I’m all for mindful and pleasurable indulgence – don’t get me wrong. But I’m also keenly aware that if I put myself and my family in a will-power needing situation, I’m setting all of us up for failure. It’s one thing to have a lil’ treat at a holiday party, and another thing to stock the house with bucketloads of holiday goodies. We basically keep all that stuff out of the house. When we’re gifted some, we put it out of immediate view and savor it slowly and sparingly. This strategy both draws out the pleasure and prevents us from grabbing treats mindlessly. It’s that mindless eating that is so damaging at this time of year.

How do you take care of yourself during the fall and winter seasons?

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