The long winter months can be difficult for many people. Along with having to shovel snow and dress in layers, you may find that your mental health deteriorates in the wintertime. You’re not alone: Seasonal depression affects about 5 percent of the global population, although it’s more prevalent among women and in areas far north of the equator, including the U.K.
To help prevent depression, anxiety, and/or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter, it’s in your best interest to get outside as often as possible. But going outside isn’t just about your mental health — there are plenty of reasons to leave your house this winter. Here are four favorites.
Improve Your Overall Health
Sometimes, you may not feel motivated to exercise, and those feelings can amplify when it’s cold outside. And when the winter blues hit, your motivation may reach rock bottom. No matter your fitness level, exercise may be the answer.
Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to improve both your mental and physical health. In addition to benefiting your heart and helping to regulate your weight, cardiovascular exercise has been shown to combat stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Nursing professionals trained in holistic, or whole-body, treatment methods recommend exercise to their patients with mental health disorders. You can take their advice during the winter months by going on a daily walk with your children or the family dog, or by heading to the gym.
Expand Your Knowledge at Your Local Library
When you’re cooped up in your home due to inclement weather, it’s the perfect time to learn a new skill or expand your general knowledge base. And there’s no better place to learn than your local library.
Visiting the library gives you a great reason to get outside. In recent years, there has been much talk about libraries becoming obsolete, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, libraries are more relevant than ever, studies show.
According to Rutgers University, librarians are a top 10 occupation, and the industry is expected to grow by about 9 percent through 2026. You can help keep the industry alive by visiting your local library this winter and checking out items that will cure your boredom and maybe help you learn something, including cookbooks, self-help manuals, audiobooks, and movies. Further, most libraries host events, lectures, and workshops throughout the year, especially during the winter months. Many of these events are family-friendly, so take the kids and get them involved in the wonderful world of literature!
Experience the Great Outdoors
Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the majesty of nature. While tent camping may be off the table during the winter months, you can still take an RV road trip. An RV serves as a home away from home, complete with beds, a kitchen, and heaters.
Whether you’re headed to the mountains or a national park, a winter camping trip requires planning in advance. First, call around to campsites, RV parks, and/or recreation areas to find out if they’re open during the winter. Then, you’ll need to get your RV ready.
If your RV is in seasonal storage, you may need to de-winterize it before hitting the road. Make sure to flush antifreeze from your plumbing system, sanitize your freshwater supply, and charge your RV’s batteries if needed. You may also need to air out your RV if it hasn’t been used for a while.
Strengthen Your Community
When we’re cooped up in our houses for long periods of time, it’s easy to feel isolated. However, the solution to combating the winter blues may be closer than you think: It’s likely that your closest neighbors may also want to get out and about.
Consider hosting a weekly or bi-weekly neighborhood potluck, game night, or similar event that brings everyone together. If you don’t want to play host every time, you can rotate the event’s host house. A neighborhood get-together will help you socialize and keep SAD and anxiety at bay, while also strengthening community ties.
What’s more, a stronger community often equates improved overall safety, both physical and emotional. Individuals with strong community ties typically age better, recover from illnesses more quickly, experience less stress, and have a longer lifespan. They’re also less prone to developing SAD or depression during the winter.
Winter can be stressful for many people, especially those who suffer from a mental health disorder, but it doesn’t have to be. No matter where you live, you can stay healthy and happy during the winter months by getting out of the house, socializing, and finding new ways to stay busy.
The potential benefits of getting outside in the wintertime are myriad and include establishing a more positive outlook on life, learning new skills, and strengthening your local community. So get outside, whatever the weather, and reduce your chances of developing SAD while improving your overall physical and mental health.
What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below. I really would love to know.
Until next time, shine amongst the stars!
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