With the recent rains in the Bay Area (thankfully), fall and winter coolness has officially arrived. As the weather shifts, we begin to see more colds and flu cropping up in our workplace, family and gyms. To avoid getting sick before the winter season starts, follow these eight guidelines.

1-Keep Warm – Shivering depresses our immune system which makes us more likely to catch colds. Lower levels of sunlight and altered levels of hormones such as melatonin and serotonin negatively affect how the immune system performs. Layered clothing and hats can come in handy when a warm day turns chilly to keep the body warm.

2-Wash your hands – When someone sneezes, germs are transmitted by physical contact. They enter the body when infected hands touch vulnerable parts like our eyes, mouths and noses. Washing hands often – and drying them on disposable paper towels (or laundering hand towels regularly) – can significantly reduce the chances of catching a virus, especially the rotavirus, which tends to infect children and causes vomiting and diarrhea.

3-Up Your Meditation- Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that people who meditated took 76 percent fewer sick days than those who were not so zen. Meditating trains you to stay focused and calm, which helps alleviate stress that can leave you vulnerable to infection. To get started, try the app called Headspace.com that has a free 10-session trial.

4-Take Probiotics – Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are ‘friendly’ bacteria in our intestines. They are found in foods, such as Greek yogurt. Probiotics are increasingly recognized for their importance in maintaining a healthy digestive system. When the digestive tract is healthy, it also boosts the immune system.

5-Keep Moving, Moderately – When you exercise regularly, the number of natural killer (NK) cells in our bodies increase. NK levels go up and stay elevated for about 36 hours afterwards. These lymphocytes in the bloodstream and the mucosal layer of the nose and airways travel around our bodies seeking foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. However, if you exercise too much, this will actually lower levels of NK cells.

6-Add Echinacea – Echinacea was originally used by Native Americans to heal wounds and infections. Nowadays, it is popularly used to boost the immune system in fighting colds and flu, and also as an agent to help heal viral and bacterial infections. Although Echinacea is used to boost the immune system, it does tend to lose effectiveness with lengthy usage. Ideally, you should take it for no more than six to eight weeks at a time.

7-Hydrate Plenty – Water helps the kidneys function properly and flushes out the toxins that accumulate in our bodies, so drink water throughout the day. Also, dehydration makes your mucus drier and thicker and less able to cope against invading bacteria and viruses. If you’ve already caught a cold, drinking plenty of fluids will help flush out the infection.

8-Subsititute Green Tea for Coffee – Green tea has an ingredient called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which damages influenza virus particles and stop them from entering your system, a German study reveals. EGCG may also interfere with pneumonia-causing bacteria. Drink as much green tea as you want, or take a daily EGCG supplement, such as one sold by Now Foods.