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Overcoming Seasonal Depression Through Outdoor Activities

Overcoming Seasonal Depression Through Outdoor Activities

When the temperature drops and winter weather sets in, it’s common to gravitate towards staying indoors as much as possible. Self-induced ‘hibernation’ is typical for many people who just want to stay warm and stick out the winter indoors. As someone who is almost always cold, I can relate to this feeling. I’d prefer to spend all winter curled up in blankets, binge-watching Netflix with my cat.

However, I also recognize that seasonal depression is something that drastically affects me. So every winter, I’m forced out of my depressive ‘comfort’ zone and must prevail the cold. That all being said, I’ve noticed a trend in my winter routine over the years: as soon as I start embracing the cold, rather than despising it, my levels of depression decrease.

A frequent misconception that outdoor activity during cold temperatures makes you sick or is unhealthy keeps many people locked inside. But science actually proves the opposite is true. For me, breaking up monotonous indoor winter routines and just being outside has proven to be widely beneficial to my mental and physical health.

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Related: Winter’s Here: 7 Tips to Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder

Start With Typical Winter Sports and Activities

Hitting the slopes is something enjoyed by many. Whether you’re an enthusiast or a first time skier/snowboarder, there’s much to enjoy about winter sports. From the bunny hill to the backside, everyone has a great time carving the mountains once the snow piles up. Snowmobiling is another exciting winter activity to try, as well as the a more mellow approach of sledding and ice skating.

Travel When Conditions Permit

While traveling around the holidays is ordinary, it doesn’t have to stop after Christmas. Plan a winter getaway when conditions and weather are permitting. Equip your vehicle with winter tires and traction chains if you plan on road tripping. And bring the dog along for the ride. Just make sure your pets are safe too!

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Related: Essential Car Care Tips You Need to Know for Winter

Try Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking

What’s more captivating than finding a breathtaking view of wilderness? How about your favorite landscapes dusted with fresh snow! Hiking isn’t just for the summer time! Many of the same places you hike in warmer months are also open to the public in the winter. Check ahead of time to be certain that hiking trails and roadways are open and safe.

Soak It Up In the Best Hot Springs

If you’re up for even more of an endeavor than a winter hike, map out a trek to a natural hot spring! Your mind, body, and specifically your skin will thank you. The softness of the water in hot springs nourishes the skin in a unique way and provides the body with minerals that are atypical. A great starting point for scouting out hot springs is this list of the most famous hot springs in the world.

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Winter Surfing (Yes, It’s Real)

Looking for an unconventional outdoor activity this winter? Why not try winter surfing? Although I’m a novice surfer at best, I’ve actually taken part in late fall and early winter surfing and it was simply incredible. For me, the rush of cold water was only temporary and really got endorphins pumping through my body.

Keep safety as your number one priority if you decide to embark in winter surfing. A proper winter wetsuit is absolutely crucial as well as many other safety precautions. Always have a safety plan and surf with friends!

Maintain The Space Around Your Home

Winter months are clearly not a time for gardening or lawn care. But there are certainly many things a person can do to winter-proof their home and maintain the space they live in. When excessive snow hits, many people ignore their driveways and sidewalks. It’s important to constantly keep them clear and salted, for obvious safety reasons.

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A major seasonal challenge in addition to shoveling snow is keeping roofs clear of snow buildup. If snow isn’t removed from the top of homes, it can become extremely heavy. This can cause roofs to collapse and poses other hazards.

When under layers of snow melt and runs down a slanted roof, ice dams can form. This can cause damage to shingles and allows water to soak through into attics and upper levels of homes. Ice dams also become very heavy and can destroy rain gutters. For a complete guide on ice dams, and how to remove them, check out this useful resource titled: Ice Dams: Everything You Need to Know.

A Unique Outdoor Activity Tip For Winter

Many people forget that it’s still possible to get sunburns in the winter time. When the sun shines on blankets of snow the rays can actually be reflected and intensified. So if you know you are someone who burns easily, be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen.

No matter what you’re doing this year to escape indoor isolation, make sure safety is always kept in mind. There’s no shortage of hazards during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get outdoors and brave the cold. Your mind and your body will thank you!

Featured photo credit: Gratisography via gratisography.com

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Robert Parmer

Freelance Writer

There’s No Perfect Family, but a Happy Family Doesn’t Need to Be Perfect The One Technique You Need to Turn Boring Writing into Compelling Words Overcoming Seasonal Depression Through Outdoor Activities How Students Can Combat Stress, Depression, and Anxiety [TIMELY TOPIC] Helpful Halloween Safety Tips for Everyone

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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