Avoiding the Winter Blues

winter blues

Winter activities are plentiful but many don't see this time of year as a time to be and stay active. Here are some easy, fun and affordable ways to spend those cold, dreary days!

Going outside may seem daunting in the winter. But even just a few minutes a day of sun and exercise can help treat the winter doldrums. Certainly, bitter cold days are better spent indoors. But when the temperature is bearable, head out for a for a few minutes. Or a few hours! There are lots of fun things to do in the snow:

  • Skiing and Snowboarding. It seems scary: strapping metal to your boots and sailing recklessly down the side of a mountain. But with a few lessons, snow skiing can be a great way to enjoy winter and get some exercise. Cross-country skiing is fun, mellow activity that is great for families who want to chat and sight see. Plus, cross-country skiing burns up to 500 calories in one hour (based on 150lb person). Downhill skiing and snowboarding require some practice and instruction from a trained professional. Most ski resorts offer lessons for beginners.
  • Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking. These are both fun, inexpensive ways to enjoy winter. Some areas offer guided snowshoeing and hiking; otherwise, it's simply a matter of finding a spot to explore. It's best not to set out alone or without some knowledge of the area. Start by reading a book on snowshoeing, like The Snowshoe Handbook by Len McDougall. Snowshoers should be prepared with the right equipment and a plan.

In addition to outdoor activities, there are plenty of ways to keep busy indoors and stay out of the cold!

  • Start a Book Club. Reading is something one can do curled up under a blanket or in front of a nice fire. Start by contacting some friends to see who is interested. Then find a day or evening each week that works for everyone. Book clubs can meet at a coffee shop, the library or someone's home. Barnes and Noble even offers online book clubs. Select books based on everyone's taste or have each member select a book once a week. Books can also be selected based on genre, like the classics (Ulysses by James Joyce, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald, Animal Farm by George Orwell); Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth,A Midsummer Night's Dream) or non-fiction (Black Boy by Richard Wright, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote).
  • Learn a New Hobby. Winter is the perfect time to learn something new. Knitting or crocheting is a great opportunity to make gifts for friends. Scrapbooking takes time and planning, which there is plenty of on bitter cold days. Brewing beer at home is a hobby that takes concentration and a bit of science. There are plenty of options for occupying time while the snow flies!

Sometimes, the "winter blues" can take a real toll on people. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real mood disorder, characterized in winter by weight gain, depression, hopelessness, social withdrawal and other symptoms ("Seasonal Affective Disorder"). People experiencing these symptoms need to seek professional help. Although SAD is thought to be a biochemical disorder caused by a lack of light, therapy can help change negative thoughts and behaviors. Light therapy is a popular treatment; light boxes mimic outdoor light, improving mood. Medications may be necessary for some to get through this depression.

Winter doesn't have to be miserable; sports, hobbies and professional help can help turn cold days into productive ones!

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