Healthy Ways to Embrace Cold Weather

The first few weeks of cooler weather each year are often a welcome change of pace - crisp air, a fresh start, beautiful fall colors - but after that, many of us are stuck facing down months of gray days, bitter cold, and that uniquely dreary mix of rain and snow that screams "stay indoors." The lack of sunshine and less than ideal weather can lead to less motivation, less energy, and that general feeling of being "in a funk." But don't worry - even if you're a die-hard summer person, there are lots of healthy ways to embrace the winter weather so you can stay active and happy until it's time to pack up the winter coats again.

(Note: If you're experiencing severe symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder with the change of seasons, it's worth discussing with your doctor or a mental health provider!)

How to Embrace Cold Weather

1. Think cozy.

We associate summer with a bright, exuberant kind of joy, but fall and winter also bring their own type of quiet, introspective joy. Try to reframe your view of winter as something to be enjoyed rather than just endured. Be intentional about getting in the cozy spirit (the Danish call it "hygge") by gathering up your softest blankets, lighting lots of candles or a fireplace, making a warm drink, and settling in with a book, movie, or board game. 

2. Keep getting outdoors.

As the saying goes, "there's no bad weather, just bad clothing." As long as it's not dangerously cold, bundle up and head out for a walk, even if it's just for a few minutes. Think of the excitement of running outside after a fresh snowfall when you were a child! There are so many benefits to spending time in nature, and it's a great way to avoid cabin fever, get some fresh air and sun exposure, and get a new perspective, even if it does require some (or many) extra layers.

3. Gather your people. 

It's easy to go into hibernation mode when the sun sets at 4:30pm and the weather report says 17 degrees, but it's important to make time to gather with friends and family in fall and winter, too! Socializing is a powerful way to boost your mood, and it can be as simple as having coffee with a coworker, attending a weekly workout class with a friend, or inviting the neighbors over for a simple dinner.

4. Enjoy healthy seasonal foods.

We often crave comfort foods when cold weather rolls around, but food doesn't have to be unhealthy for it to be comforting! Just a few decades ago, we didn't have access to every type of produce year-round in every region, and warming, seasonal foods can provide the nutrients our bodies crave. Think root vegetables and rich colors: beets, onions, butternut squash, acorn squash, delicata squash, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc. Beyond the nutritional benefits, food is also fun way to embrace the season. Just like we look forward to summertime watermelon, tomatoes, and salads, we can look forward to hearty soups, stews, and cozy meals. 

5. Pick up a new hobby or plan a trip.

The long stretch of winter after the holidays is a great time to pick up a new hobby or plan a getaway. Looking forward to something - whether it's a vacation, a new weekly class to attend, a fun indoor activity, spending time with a loved one, or a winter sport like skiing or snowshoeing - can greatly contribute to positive feelings. In fact, one study showed that anticipation of an upcoming vacation often made people as happy or happier than the actual experience!

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