By Mark A. Ellison, Ed.D.
Once winter hits many of us transition to the indoors. It’s too cold, it’s dark, it’s snowing…what other excuses have you used? The colder temperatures often feel uncomfortable and more hours of darkness inhibit activity, especially for those who work during the day. In 2019, don’t retreat indoors, get out more! Snow and ice add a dimension to the landscape, and it is often more quiet because fewer people are out.
Plott Balsam Mountain Range (NC) (Photo by Mark Ellison)
One of the major benefits of exercising in the cold is that you burn more calories. With any activity in winter the key is to dress appropriately and in layers. If you are going to be sweating a lot while you are outside, bring extra base layers/shirts to change into when you are slowing down and not expending as much energy. Wear a toboggan hat to provide insulation on your head, and gloves to keep hands warm and dry. Hand and toe warmer packets that provide heat for approximately five hours can make cold days comfortable. If you are going out, always check the weather forecast.
Here are a few ways you can stay connected with the nature during the beautiful season of winter.
Cross Country Skiing on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Photo by Mark Ellison)
Hiking in winter can be a wonderful experience. Fewer bugs, snakes, and people make for pleasant days in the woods. The leaves are off the trees opening up vistas that are not typically available during other seasons.
Winter Hiking (Photo by Mark Ellison)
Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing
This is a glorious way to experience winter. If you live in the southern United States as I do, there is a limited time frame for enjoying this. When the snow hits, get outside. Both of these activities are really easy to pick up, and you will most likely be able to enjoy some solitude. Good locations for this are trails, closed roads and golf courses. Some parts of the country have ski centers with groomed trails.
Doubletop and Fern Mountains (NC) (Photo by Mark Ellison)
Watching and listening for birds in winter offers the benefit of trees not having leaves, making it easier to spot birds. Some birds may have migrated away for the season, but those that have stayed offer much to see and hear. Enjoy birds from your yard, on a trail or while you are traveling.
The winter landscape and sky provide amazing opportunities to put your photography skills to work. Use your camera or smartphone to capture images that will warm you up with good memories once you return home.
Find a Sit Spot
Find a good sit spot that you can visit regularly. Perhaps keep a journal or make sketches of what you notice. Compare this to how the same location appears in other seasons.
Ice on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Photo by Mark Ellison)
Go on a Guided Forest Therapy Walk
Guided forest therapy walks offer the opportunity to experience nature in a new way. Walks offer the opportunity to slow down, and through a series of invitations, help you experience nature in a way that works best for you. Find a guide near you using the guide locator provided by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. You may ask, “why do I need a guide, I go in nature all the time?” Think of it as being similar to having a yoga instructor. You may do yoga on your own, but you go to a class to allow someone else to design the program, set the pace, and help you learn new ways to experience it.
Winter Hiking (Photo by Mark Ellison)
Preparation for Warmer Seasons
Turn your computer or phone off and start enjoying winter! Use it as a time for renewal and preparation for when the warmer months arrive, so you are ready to hit the trail full force. Spring will be here before you know it…daylight savings starts March 10, 2019 in case you were wondering!