Got the Winter Blues? Get Outside! (Even if it is Cold)

Dominique Dragon |

Many Americans struggle with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months. This year, it's been especially hard to stay mentally and physically healthy. When the pandemic has forced many of us to stay cooped up inside our houses, it just gets easier and easier to not get out of your pajamas or venture beyond your front door. But if you want to get back to a healthier lifestyle in the new year, getting outside is one great way to start improving your social life, physical health, and state of mind.

What are the health benefits of getting outside?

According to Harvard Health, getting outside can have quite a few positive outcomes, like boosting your mood and your vitamin D levels, helping you to get more exercise, improving your concentration, and more. Being in nature can have an especially potent effect. A study conducted by the University of Exeter found that people who spent two hours total in nature every week reported much higher levels of health and well being.

What are the benefits of cold temperatures?

Colder temperatures have been found to improve sleep, enhance cognitive function, help with weight loss, and reduce inflammation. In addition, experiencing the mild discomfort of being a little bit cold can expand your tolerance and teach your body and brain that you can, indeed, do hard things.

How can I spend time outdoors when it's so cold out?

Well first, bundle up: you're more likely to enjoy your time outdoors and experience it fully if you're dressed appropriately. And with today's high tech outdoor clothing, it's possible to be pretty comfortable even when it's freezing cold! Invest in the right gear for your climate, you'll be glad you did. Second, don't set the bar too high, especially if the idea brings up a lot of resistance. Just taking five minutes to walk around the block in the middle of the day can uplift your spirits and improve your energy level.

Here are some ways to spend more time outdoors this winter:

  • Go for a walk or hike with your dog or a friend.
  • Go window shopping in your city's downtown.
  • Have a backyard campfire with friends or family.
  • Shovel snow for your own home or your neighbors'.
  • Ski, snowshoe, or take advantage of other outdoor winter sports and activities.
  • Take a camera and venture outdoors to see what's worth documenting.
  • Attend an outdoor concert or event.
  • Take some hot chocolate to a local park and spend some time hanging out on a bench.

Why getting out is so important

The benefits of getting outdoors are well documented, but this year it may be more important than ever because it's one of the safest ways to engage with your friends, city, and community while the pandemic is still rampant. If you're still unsure about getting out there, just put on your shoes and go! Feeling the fresh air and sunshine is bound to help you get through this dark time a little more easily.