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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 September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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