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“Falling” on healthy habits

autumn table with calendar, alarm clock, tea and autumn decorations

When it comes to health, one of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself. David N. Mikhael, MD Family medicine physician at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, shares some ways to focus on self-care as the weather and seasons change.


Sleep is important, and individuals’ sleep patterns can change with the seasons. “With Daylight Savings Time and clocks moving back one hour, it may seem easier to get enough sleep in the fall and winter,” shares Dr. Mikhael, “but it can actually disrupt your rhythm and make you feel sleepy and sluggish earlier in the evening due to sunset.”

Although temperature, light and weather factors are often beyond our control, here are some things you can control to help you sleep better:

  • Stick to your bedtime and morning routine.
  • Avoid things that can disrupt sleep, this can include caffeine, alcohol and long naps.
  • Exercise because sweating, whether you’re walking or running, can help you fall asleep more easily.
  • Think about your sleeping environment. Consider whether the room is dark enough, quiet enough, has a comfortable temperature, and is not distracting.

Get your vitamin D checked

Vitamin D is important to help the immune system of individuals and strengthen the function of our body. It is also needed for your brain to function properly. In general, most people in the United States consume less than the recommended amounts of vitamin D, Dr. Mikhael points out.

Most individuals get their vitamin D needs when the sun’s UV rays hit their skin. However, as the days get darker faster and the sun sets earlier, this causes even less chance for individuals to get their vitamin D.

Here are some ways to try to maintain vitamin D in your body when sun exposure is not an option:

  • Eat real food. Some foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, tuna), fortified milk, eggs, and mushrooms.
  • Try to get outside when it’s not too cold on those slightly warmer days.
  • Talk to your doctor and see what vitamin D supplement he might recommend.


Although it might be repetitive to hear every year, it’s important to get a flu shot and boost your immunity as winter approaches. It has important benefits such as reducing doctor visits and helping individuals miss less school and work. If you do get the flu, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your symptoms.

In addition to getting a flu shot, Dr. Mikhael says it’s important to avoid sick people and maintain good hand hygiene. Just as it is important to maintain good levels of vitamin D, maintaining good levels of vitamin C by eating fruits and vegetables can also help boost immunity.

Use seasonal products

Autumn offers plenty of opportunities to combine your fun autumn festivities with making healthy recipes in the kitchen. Not only can eating certain seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better, but eating seasonally can be better for your health and can be more environmentally sustainable.

While two of your seasonal fall staples can be picked up while strolling through the apple fields or pumpkin patch, there are a few other options for seasonal produce that you can buy at the grocery store. These include beets, squash, cranberries, grapes, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, pears, carrots and Brussels sprouts.

A few of these fruits and vegetables can make delicious and healthy home-cooked meals, like soups and stews, that will inspire you to be your best.

Include indoor exercises

As the weather transitions to much cooler temperatures, it might affect the outdoor exercises you love to participate in, but that doesn’t mean you should stop exercising! It is important to keep your body moving in order to keep it happy and healthy.

Here are some options for holding activities indoors:

  • Join a gym and try something new, like taking a class like kickboxing, pilates, weight training, yoga, dance or spinning.
  • Take advantage of the indoor facilities, such as the swimming pool or the basketball court.
  • Keep up your walks, whether you’re logging some miles at home on the treadmill or doing a few runs around the mall.

A gratitude journal

While Thanksgiving is always a good reminder to recognize what we are thankful for, keeping a gratitude journal can help us be grateful every day. Acknowledging gratitude helps us to be aware and leads to positive mental mood and health.

All you have to do is take some time during the day, like right before you go to bed, and write down the good things that happened to you during the day or even the things that you might take for granted. It doesn’t have to be fancy, nor does it require a lot of work, as it can be as simple as a word or a sentence.

While keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to improve your outlook on life, Dr. Mikhael notes that other health benefits include:

  • Lower stress levels and better mental strength
  • Healthier relationships and self-esteem
  • Increased productivity and clarity

As we continue deeper into the fall months and prepare for winter, it’s important to keep our physical and mental well-being strong and healthy. For a referral to a Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center doctor, visit our online directory of doctors or call 888-724-7123.

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