13 Daily Habits To Support Your Immune Health This Cold & Flu Season
Ready or not, cold and flu season is here. This time of year is tough on our immune systems, but adding some healthy habits to your everyday routine can help bolster your body's defense system.
Follow this daily schedule to stay healthy and enable your body to ward off colds, the flu, and any other illness it may encounter.
6:30 a.m.: Wake up & head outside.
If you can, bundle up and head outside for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning. Exposing your eyes to early morning light helps increase dopamine—a neurotransmitter that helps support innate immunity1.
Seeing natural light upon waking also helps boost your cortisol, which helps wake you up, energize you for the day, and regulate your circadian rhythm. In addition to helping you fall asleep at a reasonable hour at the end of your day, a healthy circadian rhythm has been found to support immune function2 (even outside of sleep health).
6:35 a.m.: Hydrate.
While you're outside, start drinking water! Proper hydration helps lubricate the mucous membrane barriers in the mouth and nose (the first defense against most viruses), drain the lymphatic system, clear out cellular waste, and ensure nutrients and antibodies get transported where they're needed in the body.
6:50 a.m.: Meditate.
Stress management is a critical part of immune health—and meditation is a fantastic way to regulate stress response. Deepak Chopra and other researchers have found that by reducing stress, meditation helps suppress chronic inflammation3 and promote healthy gut-barrier function (both critical factors of overall immune health).
If you're new to meditation, here are some tips to get you started.
7 a.m.: Move your body.
It's no secret that regular physical activity helps promote immune health4 and function. Whether you like running, walking, dancing, swimming, biking, Pilates, weightlifting, or yoga doesn't matter—starting your day with movement of any type can ensure you're giving your immune system the support it needs!
7:30 a.m.: Take a cold shower.
Studies show that cold therapy (e.g., the Wim Hof Method) can help both decrease inflammation5 and support immune response—and quickly: One study found that just 30 days of (hot-to-) cold showers resulted in a 29% reduction6 in sick days compared to not taking cold showers at all.
If you'd like to skip the cold shower and dive deeper into cold exposure therapy, start with a daily ice bath instead (you can see our top plunge pool selections here).
Note: Doing ice baths or taking cold showers when you're already sick can have negative effects, so be sure to start your cold therapy exposure practice as a preventive measure when you're feeling healthy.
8 a.m.: Eat a nutrient-dense breakfast.
Eating a variety of plant foods with each meal helps support gut health and immune response. Start your day with a healthy breakfast that's packed with macro- and micronutrients—like an immune-supporting smoothie or fiber-rich oatmeal topped with antioxidant-rich berries.
8:30 a.m.: Take your supplements.
Adding immune-supporting vitamins and minerals (e.g., zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D) to our daily routine is an easy and effective way to protect your health during cold and flu season. Try one of these immunity supplements to bolster your body's defense season each and every day.
12 p.m.: Eat a well-balanced lunch.
Be sure to get a healthy meal in midday! Since gut health is intrinsically linked to immune function, lunch is a great time to support your gut microbiome with a diverse and colorful plate of plant foods. Try this Lemon Lentil Salad or this Kimchi Kale Buddha Bowl to pack in a plethora of micronutrients and fiber.
3 p.m.: Do breathwork.
If you work at a desk, take an afternoon break to stretch your muscles and do some quick breathwork. This not only helps relieve stress but also helps improve antioxidant status7 and strengthens the lungs (which is especially valuable if you get a respiratory illness).
If you're new to breathwork, try our crash course to help get you started!
6 p.m.: Make a nutritious dinner.
It's the last meal of the day, so make it count! Try a delicious, immune-boosting soup from this recipe roundup (like garlic mushroom or chicken zoodles—yum!), and be sure to finish up your meal at least three hours before bedtime to promote deep, restful sleep (i.e., prevent waking up8 in the middle of the night) and modulate your circadian rhythm9.
7:30 p.m.: Turn off all screens.
Avoiding your phone, laptop, television, and other blue-light-emitting devices helps increase your melatonin levels before bedtime. If you aren't able to avoid screens, put on a pair of blue-light glasses so your circadian rhythm doesn't get completely thrown off.
9:30 p.m.: Wind down & relax.
Engage in a stress-relieving activity to wind down your day. Whether you do another meditation, roll out your yoga mat for a restorative flow, journal, read, or simply take some deep breaths, releasing stress and easing your mind will help give your body the restful sleep it needs to fully support your immune system.
10:30 p.m.: Hit the hay.
Shut off the lights! You've earned some deep, restorative shut-eye after a long day of caring for your immune health.
Supporting your immune system is an all-day, every day affair. Taking small steps throughout your day to eat nutritious foods, moving your body, supplementing with high-quality vitamins and minerals, and managing your stress can help bolster your immune defense as we head into cold and flu season.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.