Embrace the winter & get outside!

Jan 25, 2022

Welcome to Ontario in the winter! It’s chilly, it’s darker, it’s icy. So why not hunker down and stay indoors? What’s so great about being outside this time of year? Let’s look at the benefits of tackling the cold temps and soaking up some snow!

Seasonal affective disorder is highest through the winter months, we see less sunshine, the temperatures drop and the potentially icy conditions may limit our mobility and socialization. Throw in a pandemic and we all may be experiencing more feelings of listlessness, fatigue, low energy and even foggy brain.

The Mayo Clinic describes SAD as: ”Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months.”

In the winter it is perhaps even more important to get outside, even for short periods of time to improve both our moods and our physical health, leading to reduced stress and increased immune systems.

How does getting outside help?

Vitamin D: exposing your skin to the sun’s UVB rays is vital for your body to get the Vitamin D it needs. Vitamin D is not present in large doses in foods, and studies have shown that insufficiency of what is known as the “sunshine” vitamin affects nearly one in two people worldwide. Fortunately, every a little bit of sun helps, even on cold winter days.

Increased seratonin: Natural daylight does a great job of raising your serotonin (one of your body’s feel-good chemicals) levels. Serotonin levels in the brain are lowest in winter. Going outside can increase positive mood and alleviate depression. Being in nature also reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) which also helps to improves sleep also helping to strengthen our immunity.

Increased energy: Time outdoors has also been shown to increase energy levels. Whether it’s the vitamin D, the stress relief, or increased oxygen, having more energy at a time when we’re inclined to hibernate is a great thing! If you’re feeling sluggish, a little time outside might be just the pick-me-up you need.

Connection: Stepping outside often means encountering your neighbours. Meeting on the street during a walk gives you the latest opportunity to connect and engage. Communicating face-to-face with your neighbours also fosters and builds a sense of community. No one likes to feel isolated, yet modern living often promotes isolation through high-speed interactions and digital communications. Getting outside and interacting in-person, in real-time, has lasting benefits for individuals and neighbourhoods.

Bundling up and getting out in the winter has positive effects on our mental, emotional and physical wellness, so layer up, grab some tissues (runny noses while outside in the cold aren’t a sign of illness, your body is just making extra mucus to moisturize and protect your mucous membranes in the cold, dry air!) and soak up the fresh winter air. Enjoy!

(photo: Lindsey MacNeil, RMT)