Motivation in the winter can be tough. Many of us leave for work when it is dark and arrive home from work when it is already dark, making it both physically and mentally challenging to get outside.
While in the winter months it is important to rest, move at a slower pace and spend time drawing inward, it is equally important to spend focused amounts of time in nature to prevent emotional, mental and physical imbalances. One of the most prevalent imbalances in the winter time is feeling mentally and physically stuck and weighed down.
Being outside in nature is one of the best ways to support physical and mental health during the winter months. Depending on how you are feeling, your time outside can vary from slow and gentle long walks to a more intense workout like a demanding hike.
I recently took a trip with Getaway House and I was reminded how rejuvenating it is to get out of the city and into nature. A growing body of scientific research also supports this notion. The more often we get out of the house, the happier and healthier we become.
Here are seven reasons to head outside, rain snow or shine.
Sunshine improves our emotional wellbeing.
Psychologists at Brigham Young University found that an important natural aspect of emotional happiness was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset. Better moods positively correlates with an increase exposure to sunlight.
Nature is a good stress-reducing environment.
Nature can reduce stress hormones and increase positive feelings. Being in nature is a great way to disconnect from our phones, focus on ourselves and awaken our senses. It is the perfect environment to relax.
Nature exposes us to vitamin D.
According to a 2012 study, 50% of the world’s population gets an insufficient amount of vitamin D. This number increases during the winter, as our exposure to sunlight (the best source of vitamin D) decreases. Vitamin D not only plays a role in mood regulation but can also decrease our risk of developing heart disease and the flu. Spending more time outside increases the amount of sun exposure, and therefore vitamin D exposure, we get.
The more time we spend in nature, the more we are exposed to clean air.
Indoor air pollutants can be up to 100 times worse than outdoor pollutants. Indoor air pollutants can cause coughing, sneezing, rashes, and headaches, among other things. Spending time in fresh air lowers our risk of getting sick due to indoor pollutants.
Nature improves our mental state.
Spending time in nature has been linked to numerous positive mental traits, such as improved attention span, boosts in serotonin, and increased activity in areas of the brain associated with love and empathy.
We can lower our risk of depression by spending more time in nature.
A Stanford study found that people who walked in nature, as opposed to in high-traffic urban areas, showed decreased activity in region of brain associated with depression.
Getting outside can prevent boredom in your workouts.
If you live in a colder climate, bundle up and switch up your workout. Instead of your typical fitness class, try something like cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing or a winter hike. It may take a bit of extra planning but not only will you get the physical benefits from exercise, you’ll also get the mental and emotional benefits of being being in nature.
What’s your favorite way to get outside in the winter? Let me know in the comments below and if you’re looking for more ways to adapt your lifestyle for the winter, read my tips for transitioning your diet here.
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