Here’s Your Guide to Getting Outside this Winter
Many people look forward to Winter when they get to light fires, dig out cozy clothes, make hot cocoa, and enjoy the holiday celebrations, but not everyone has this view. Others may experience seasonal depression, feel stressed about holidays, or spend these months longing for warmer weather. Whether we love the cold or not, most of us are affected by the shorter days and fewer opportunities to get outside, causing Winter to be an emotionally draining time.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real issue that occurs with the reduction of sunlight and serotonin levels, causing fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. Many people struggle with SAD this time of year, and, unfortunately, we are all still living through an incredibly stressful time on top of that. It’s completely normal if you’re feeling more stressed, depressed, or anxious than usual, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.
One of the best ways we can improve our moods and overall well being is spending time in nature. It can be difficult getting outside and soaking up some vitamin D when the temperature keeps dropping, often below freezing, but it’s still just as needed, if not more so.
What about the air outside is so much better than the air inside?
There have been several studies dedicated to answering this exact question. Scientists and mental professionals have found that nature is incredibly healing and is crucial for our overall mental, physical, and emotional health. It’s essential to be intentional about spending time outside, just as we intentionally drink water and eat a clean diet. Nature promotes clarity and imagination and improves memory and cognitive function. People who spend regular time outside report more energy, happier moods, and a more positive outlook on life. And if you’re not convinced yet, outdoor activities are a great way to build community and spend time with family! If you miss friends you haven’t seen due to COVID-19, try meeting them for a walk or hike outside where you can practice safe physical distancing while still spending quality time together.
How to Get Prepared For Winter Outdoors!
Make sure you have plenty of layers. Of course, this all depends on where you live and what the weather is like, but always be sure your clothing protects you from lower temperatures, rain, and any other weather. You may need a bottom layer, base layer, mid-layer, and weather-appropriate jacket. Regardless of if there is any snow or rain in the forecast, it is always smart to have a waterproof coating or make sure your jacket is already waterproof.
💡Pro Tip: It’s always better to be safe and have an extra jacket you don’t need than to find yourself stuck a mile into a hike freezing and wet. (I don’t know about you, but I love to avoid getting colds!)
Ensure you have warm socks (wool works great!) and comfortable, warm, and appropriate shoes. Decide what you’re going to do before you leave the house, so you know what shoes you need. While a short walk with your dog in above freezing temperatures may just call for sneakers, a longer hike or lower temperatures will need better, sturdier, more supportive shoes and thicker socks.
💡Pro Tip: – You may need to get new shoes, but you can think of it as an investment! For example, snowshoes are often inexpensive and very easy to use to trek through the snow, so if it usually snows where you live, you may want to check these out!
Your body uses energy just to try and stay warm, so you may be hungry even if you’re doing an easy hike or activity. Fueling your body with good food and staying hydrated is important. Certain foods can also help you get more vitamin D when we have fewer sunlight hours.
💡Pro Tip: – Bring a small fanny pack or a compactable bag to store your snacks and water in! And bring a reusable water bottle if you’re going somewhere with access to water fountains, so you don’t have to spend money on a new bottle (and to help protect our environment!)
AWESOME! Now that you’re a bit more prepared, it’s time to get excited about exploring nature!
Here are 5 EASY and ACCESSIBLE ways to get outside this Winter.
Get more sunlight. The sun goes down earlier this time of year, and the darkness can really put a damper on your day. Take advantage of the daytime and soak up the sunlight. When you are inside, open the shades and let the sunlight in the windows (your indoor plants will thank you for this too!) And whenever possible, physically go outside to soak up some vitamin D, even if it’s just stepping out onto a porch, balcony, or the front of your work building during a break.
Start a campfire. Whether you get a small, simple fire pit for your backyard or you go out to the country with some friends and start a (safe and controlled) bonfire, fires are a great way to enjoy winter and get outside. Fires are mesmerizing and help us slow down and meditate. It can also be a great, relaxing, and enjoyable way to spend time with family and friends by sitting around a fire. But please, ALWAYS be safe with fire, as you don’t want to get burned or cause anything to spread.
Find an easy trail to hike. Plan ahead to make sure you’re familiar with the trail or choose a well-marked trail to avoid getting lost. And don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with local trails! You can download many free apps, such as AllTrails, to discover trails near you or ask some friends for recommendations. Even if you don’t think there is anything nearby, you can still check one of these apps, as you might be pleasantly surprised!
Not ready for a trail? Go on a leisurely walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park. If you have a dog, take it with you! They’ll be just as happy as you to get outside.
Try something new. Live somewhere with snow? Try snowshoeing or ice skating. Both activities can be very affordable. You may also want to attempt to build an igloo in your back yard or a snowman. Take your kids with you for a fun family activity and post pictures of your creations! Don’t live somewhere with snow? Learn how to cook over a fire or play some fun games outside or go on a nature scavenger hunt. You can find endless games and activities for children and adults alike online!
Look at the stars. Load up on blankets, pillows, and sheets and head into your backyard, the back of a truck, or a close park. You can set up a comfortable place to lay down and look at the stars. Bring your friends, family, kids, or significant other with you for company and get warm under the blankets. Try making a game out of it by seeing who can find the most constellations or who comes up with their own constellation. You can also do this with clouds, though be careful about starring too close to the sun! And remember to stay warm. Perhaps bring some hot tea or cocoa with you!
I hope some of these ideas spark some excitement to explore nature! Or help you come up with your own ideas. It’s important to get outside, especially during the Winter and after many months of staying home to practice physical distancing.
What are your favorite ways to get outside and explore in the winter?
Article Contributions by Haley Cottey. Haley and her husband CJ are the founders of ExploreMore and are avid outdoor enthusiasts with over 100 days experience in the backcountry. They also have years of experience hiking (alone and with toddlers), skiing, climbing, biking etc all over the USA. They are also passionate about educating and encouraging people to get outside and explore more of the outdoor spaces and activities right in their town. They are the owners of Explore More, and you can find them on Instagram and Facebook.