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7 Ways to Make the Most of Winter

7 Ways to Make the Most of Winter

Winter is well and truly upon us, and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere like Yours Truly, chances are you’ve been experiencing some seriously low temperatures and long, dark nights. It’s a funny time of the year, isn’t it? On the one hand, we feel buoyed by the warmth and togetherness brought about by the holidays and on the other, the almost perpetual darkness and the cruel, biting wind nipping aggressively at our noses can have a terribly damaging effect on our moods and motivation.

There’s no denying that winter can be a bit of an emotional – and physical, since those chapped lips and frozen fingertips don’t lie) – rollercoaster, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all that terrible. In fact, play your cards right, and winter can be a rich and fulfilling season. To prove it, I have come up with seven actionable steps to make the best of the cold days and dark nights. But first, let’s take a look at why we should embrace this difficult time of the year instead of fearing it.

Why winter isn’t actually all that bad

Believe it or not, there is plenty to love about winter and cold weather – yes, even the biting cold! Indeed, there is a myriad of evidence that cooler temperatures can, in fact, be beneficial to our wellbeing. Consider this:

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-According to a study recently published in the journal ‘Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism’, colder temperatures may in fact help you lose weight. Indeed, prolonged exposure to cold requires our bodies to work harder to keep warm, thereby increasing our energy expenditure – i.e., our calorie burn. Who would’ve thought?

-Another study has revealed that the ideal temperature for sleeping is in fact lower than we may think. Hovering between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 15 to 20 degrees Celcius), it would appear that we are in fact built for getting our most restful sleep in chilly conditions. Seems like winter may in fact be the seasonal equivalent of the Sandman!

-This is 100% biased, of course, but in my opinion, Mother Nature is at her most beautiful at this time of her year. Not only is she wrapped in the most gorgeous snowy drapes, the produce she yields in winter is not only utterly delicious but also among the healthiest out there. Dig in!

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-Believe it or not, colder temperatures are apparently conducive to more focused brain activity. This means that winter is the perfect time for getting some serious studying, planning and plotting done. Guess all those New Years resolutioners were onto something, am I right?

Now that we’ve established that winter isn’t actually all that bad, here are seven ways to make the most of this most gorgeous of seasons!

1. Get active!

One of the best ways to make the most of winter is to develop, or maintain, an active lifestyle. Indeed, beyond the usual health benefits, exercising during the winter may help alleviate the symptoms of an insidious illness – seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). There are many ways of treating this disorder but, surprisingly, working out appears to be particularly effective. Do yourself a favor this season and get your sweat on – not only to keep that body in good shape, but also to protect your mental health.

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2. Enjoy the great outdoors.

Nature is arguably at its most spectacular, if not most beautiful, at this time of the year – the stark landscapes and soft, pillowy snow, if you’re so lucky, are the perfect backdrop for epic outdoors adventures. Grab some friends, prepare a picnic and set out into the great outdoors! Not only will it make for a great story afterwards, indulging in some outdoor play is also beneficial for other reasons. Namely…

3. Seize the day(light)!

Much like exercise, getting enough light – preferably natural – during the winter is vitally important in order to prevent seasonal affective disorder, and reducing its symptoms. Getting out and about during daylight hours, or alternatively, exposing yourself to artificial light that mimics sunlight, is not only good for the soul, but also great for your mental health. A good rule of thumb? Try exposing yourself to direct sunlight for 15 minutes a day!

4. Eat in season and discover some of the healthiest produce for you.

Winter is one of my favorite seasons, in terms of fruit and vegetables. From kale and brussels sprouts, to clementines, pomegranates and sweet potatoes, the colder months are home to some of the most powerful superfoods out there. Eating in season in winter will not only guarantee you the freshest, best quality produce; it will also keep your body, and most importantly, your stomach happy with these incredibly delicious foods!

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5. Get your pampering on.

Another way to keep the winter blues at bay is to indulge in some serious pampering. The long, dark nights are the perfect excuse to hole yourself up in your bathroom, have a good, long soak and really take care of yourself. Not only will you harness all the cosiness that winter can muster, you’ll also be better equipped for tackling any challenges the season may throw at you! Pampering yourself doesn’t have to mean hanging out in the bathtub, of course. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate, a good book in a warm room – anything that’ll make you feel incredible.

6. Do an end-of-year review and some New Year planning.

Like I mentioned above, the winter months are conducive to more brain activity; this means that now is the perfect time to get some serious planning and plotting done in order to make the New Year awesome! Take advantage of the long, quiet, dark nights to review the past year and set relevant, challenging goals for the year ahead. Nothing beats tackling a new phase in your life with some solid groundwork under the belt!

7. Learn something new.

Similarly, winter is a great time to buckle down and learn a new skill. Make the most of this quieter time to make some headway on learning a new language, a new instrument or a new dish. The world is your oyster!

Winter may not feel like the highlight of your year just yet, but these seven ideas will set you on the right path! Which one will you try first? Do you have any other ideas to turn that winter frown upside down? Please share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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