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How spending time outside in winter is part of a healthy life.

For years we have heard about SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a theory that reduced daylight hours can cause depression. However, recent Auburn University at Montgomery studies believe objective data does not support the concept of seasonal depression.

If there is no evidence of seasonal depression, what can a midwesterner do to survive a traditional winter?

You don’t have to be a skier to embrace the winter months. For starters, you can get yourself outside. Even just a few minutes outdoors provides Vitamin D, which helps enhance your mood. Our serotonin levels are also low during the winter, and time spent in natural sunlight increases the production of this feel-good chemical in our bodies. If you can grab a friend, all the better for your outlook.

According to the BBC, in many Nordic communities, parents claim their children sleep longer and better in the outdoors, and babies are routinely put outside for their naps. When the temperature drops to 5F, they cover the strollers with blankets.

However, spending time outdoors does require some planning.

All too often, those who hate winter tend to refrain from preparing for the weather, and no one enjoys being cold. Living in Ohio and surrounding states requires a well-insulated coat, boots, a warm hat, and gloves. Your coat and tennis shoes from October need to be put away.

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-writer took time over the Christmas break to get some winter hiking in. We bundled up and headed to the Cuyahoga National Park for a much-needed time in nature. It was a balmy 22F, the air was calm, and light snow had fallen. The woods were serene and beautiful. The weather, the company, and the walk reinvigorated us both and were a highlight of our week.

Winter hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park-Photo by author

Unless you are moving south, winter is a part of our lives. Why not embrace it and get outside? You might be surprised how much you enjoy it. And I guarantee your mood and your health will thank you.

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