As the weather gets colder, practicing simple habits on a daily basis can make the difference between getting sick and staying well. Here are 7 habits to keep you and your family healthy through the winter.

7. Stress less

Periods of stress are unavoidable, but be aware of them and don’t make it a habit. If you’re feeling unduly stressed, use some of the tips below to avoid getting sick.

6.  Get active outside

Living in Vancouver has its benefits, and one of them is that it rarely cools down far below 0 degrees—which means there are no excuses for not getting outside! Exercise ensures that body cells get lots of oxygen—whether it’s the brain or the  immune cells that need the extra boost. By being active outside, not only are you getting more oxygen, but your body is better able to adapt to the cold winter weather—while keeping you balanced emotionally. You become resilient! Any exercise is better than none, and for those fitness nuts, avoid overdoing it.

5. Preserve a healthy indoor environment.

When was the last time you aired out your home? Dust harbours bacteria and viruses along with all those dead skin cells—and we lose 40,000 skin cells every minute! It’s time to change those bed sheets, open the windows and remove clutter so dust can’t accumulate and cleaning is easy. Beeswax candles actually clean the air because they produce negative ions as they burn. Whenever possible, avoid living in overheated indoor environments—put on a sweater and wool socks before turning up the thermostat. It helps your body adapt to the cold.

4. Cold water treatments

No, I did not mistakenly type in “cold” for “hot.” I learned this one from my grandfather, who lived well into his eighties. While it may not be for everyone, it is a cheap, easy way to build resilience against the cold—and it works. Next time you have a shower or bath, end it with a cold splash on the toes for 10 or more seconds. As you gain courage, slowly move up the body  with each day and increase the time as is comfortable. Ending with cold water increases circulation and invigorates the whole body. If you have a heart condition though, check with your doctor first.

3. Herbs for immunity

Feeling a little under the weather already? Then you may need some additional help. Typical herbs for immunity are Echinacea, Astragalus, Reishi mushroom and Siberian ginseng. If you need a short term boost, use Echinacea, since this herb is not recommended for the long term use. If you need it all winter, use Astragalus and Reishi, as these need to be taken for longer periods to be most effective.

2. Top foods to eat for a healthy immune system

To fend off the cold, wet weather, eat warmer foods and herbs, such as garlic, onions, ginger, oats and soups. Chicken soup has long been a favourite and studies support its immune boosting properties. Add cinnamon, thyme and oregano to your meals for their warming properties–but not all at once! Lean protein is necessary for a healthy immune system, so make sure you get enough. Avoid white sugar, as research proves it disables immune cells. It’s a great habit to always eat a good breakfast and avoid eating before bed—especially in the winter months when immunity is down. And finally, don’t forget honey, a natural antibacterial. For a natural throat soother, combine with lemon. Kids love it!

1. Get enough rest

Are you surprised at the #1 tip? A doctor once said whoever invents a cure for the common cold should bury it. Why? Because people need to rest and recover. Need I say more?