Here in Fargo, North Dakota, where I live, we’ll have about 8 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on that day.
Which means… 15 hours and 30 minutes of darkness.
Good grief. And we won’t even mention the temperature!
Even people who love the winter season, like me, often struggle to stay healthy, happy and active during these long, dark, icy, snowy, cold, blustery wintery months.
It takes some planning (and a fair amount of willpower) but it can be done.
I’ve survived many a long, grim winters having been born in Minnesota and raised in North Dakota. I remember many mornings waiting for the school bus shivering! Here are my tips on how to take care of your body and mind when it’s frightful outside:
Get outside. I know. The last thing you want to do when it’s bitterly cold is pop outside! All those clothes, the layers… ugh. It’s exhausting, just getting dressed!
But your body requires a daily dose of fresh air in order to function properly.
Breathing in some fresh air — even just for a few minutes — can help to deliver more oxygen to your brain, stimulate your metabolism, and possibly stimulate the production of serotonin — a neurotransmitter than promotes feelings of happiness and well-being.
So, bundle up. Put on a snow-suit that makes you look like the Michelin Tire Man if you have to! But try to get outside at least once, every day. Maybe it’s just on your walk to the car. Before the wind blows you away, take some deep breaths of the cold, crisp air.
Hydrate. We still need to drink plenty of water, even though we don’t have the summer sun to heat us up.
If the air in your home is dry, put a humidifier in your bedroom. It’s good for your skin, and can help prevent nosebleeds.
Moisturize right after your bath or shower to prevent dry, itchy skin.
Move your body. Every little bit helps, even shoveling snow from your driveway!
Or, if you want to pump up your heart rate without getting frostbite, try a video class that you can do in your living room.
Check out Erin Stutland’s Shrink Sessions (positive affirmations to boost your mood, plus gentle aerobics to get your heart pumping!)
I also love YogaGlo (yoga videos, on demand, with options for all different levels.)
And for yogis with curvier bodies… Anna Guest-Jelley’s Curvy Yoga programs are fantastic! She provides modifications for bodies of all shapes and sizes. Check out her Freebies for a no-cost introduction. (She’s absolutely adorable. You’ll love her!)
For the little people in our lives, take a cue from my friend Dr Hope Yongsmith. She turned the basement into a playroom/dance floor, complete with disco ball. Kidz Bop tunes blare, and the kids get down and boogie. My son aspires to be a break dancing king….but for now he looks like an awkward cricket!
Try a light box. Light boxes (also called: bright light therapy boxes and phototherapy boxes) are special lamps that mimic the natural light from the sun.
Your light box won’t give you a tan, but for many people, these boxes create a feeling of alertness and energy, just like waking up to a bright, sunny morning. They help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately called SAD.
We put one of these inside my medical center, and several team members swear that it has changed their lives!
Most cost less than $150, and they’re well worth the investment. (Here’s a guide to choosing a light box that’s ideal for you.)
Connect with people you love. Winter tends to make people hole up and hibernate. That’s fine, in moderation. But if it has been weeks since you’ve shared a meal or a big, belly laugh with your friends… that’s a problem.
It may sound dramatic, but social isolation is considered a serious health risk — just as dangerous as obesity or smoking.
So, try not to isolate yourself. Make an effort to connect.
Throw a potluck. Meet friends for hot cocoa. Write an email to five people you miss, and say, “Let’s have a phone date. I’d love to hear your voice.”
I recommend blocking out at least two hours a week for social connection and friend-time.
Circle the time on your calendar in advance, and protect it, so that it doesn’t get swallowed up by work or other obligations.
Treat your “friend-time” as a non-negotiable health commitment, just as important as brushing your teeth, or keeping a doctor’s appointment.
Spending time with friends could, very literally, save your life.
There you have it:
My recipe for a happy, healthy winter season.
Your challenge, right now?
Close your web browser.
Set aside your computer, tablet or phone.
Then, go give your body some air, sweat, light, social connection… or all of the above.
I know it’s dark and cold, and it might be difficult to find the motivation to get going…
But once you do?
You’ll feel so amazing.
P.S. How do you beat the wintertime blues?