I have always loved spending time in nature in the winter. I look forward to it every year. Maybe that’s because of my Indigenous and Scandinavian heritage or the fact that I grew up in New England and the cold weather is just in my blood. I do recognize however that there are people who absolutely hate winter, and if you’re one of them, this article is for you.
I know that for many of us, our inclination is to withdraw indoors when it’s cold, but the truth is that you can still (and should) enjoy nature in the winter. To hide indoors would mean missing out on a truly magical experience.
But first, let’s examine why we should endeavor to get outside during the winter months and the health benefits this gives us.
The Benefits of Nature in the Winter
People often believe that being too cold can lead to getting sick, but luckily this isn’t true! The American Academy of Pediatrics explains, “Cold weather does not cause colds or flu.” As long as you’re taking care of yourself and staying warm, spending time outdoors can only benefit your health.
Listed here are just of few of the health benefits of spending time in nature during the cold winter months.
- Exposure to the cold actually increases your energy levels for hours afterward. This is not only true for your physical activity levels, but also includes a boost to your decision-making abilities.
- Getting fresh air in the winter months will help you avoid some of the bacteria and viruses that can thrive in a home once the heating has been turned on. In fact, drier indoor air helps viruses survive longer, making colds and flu more likely. Getting outside gives your body a break from indoor air, while boosting your immunity.
- Spending time in nature in the winter can help reduce bodily inflammation and swelling. Think of it as a giant ice pack.
- Cold weather boosts metabolism and help you to burn fat faster than warm weather. So, consider not giving up your daily walks or jogs when the weather turns cold, instead look at it as an opportunity to kick your health regimen up a notch for even better results.
- You’ll be getting some of the vitamin D that many of us become deficient in during the winter. Vitamin D plays a critical role in health, affecting everything from mood and immune system function to cancer risk. When we’re inside more, we aren’t getting any vitamin D from the sun which can go a long way in helping us to fend off SAD (seasonal affective disorder), depression, and insomnia.
- Time spent in nature is highly effective at reducing stress. Take time in winter to really stop and admire the beauty of nature in the wintertime and to connect with our natural world on a deeper level.
How to Enjoy Nature Like a Child
There are a few things I remember about being a kid in the winter. First and foremost, being outside for hours and hours and not being bothered by the cold. I could spend most of the day outside loving every minute of it. Often my mom would have to drag my brother and I in the house. Did you experience this too?
Did you know that you can enjoy nature in the winter like a kid again? Yes, even as an adult, you can have that same feeling of enjoyment, awe, and wonder.
Here are some easy activities to consider trying this winter to get you outside and back to enjoying nature in the winter the way you did when you were a child.
1) Take a Walk
One of my best ways to get in touch with nature is to go walking and hiking. Even in the winter, I try to walk outside at least once a day no matter how cold it is. Trust me, there’s nothing like going for a walk in the woods after a snowfall. The peace you’ll experience is incredible!
The woods are quiet – the only sound is your own footsteps. Everything else is muffled, covered by this pure blanket of white. The sky above is blue and clear; the sun shines brightly while you make your way through the snow-covered forest on a path worn by your feet alone.
2) Go Cross-country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is a sport that anyone can do. It definitely isn’t as easy as it looks, but with a little determination, you’ll be able to glide across the terrain like a pro.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to enjoy outdoor recreation in the winter, this is a great option. Normally this activity would cost money, but if you have access to cross-country ski trails or areas where people have walked across fresh snow, you’re all set!
3) Go sledding
A perfect winter activity the entire family will enjoy, sledding is an inexpensive and fun way to enjoy freshly fallen snow. All you need is a simple plastic toboggan or snow tube, and a hill suitable for sledding down. It definitely feels liberating to zip down a snowy hill. Besides, this provides a good cardio workout because you have to climb back up the hill time and again to keep sliding down.
4) Try Ice Skating
There is nothing like gliding on a clear cold ice to appreciate the beauty of nature in the winter. Whether you’re doing it for fun or fitness, you can’t help but take in the sights and sounds as you skate around on frozen lakes or ponds (just be sure they’ve been declared safe to skate on). There’s something magical about skating outside with frosty winds and sun rays caressing your face.
5) Go Snowshoeing
It’s often difficult to access some of your favorite hiking trails during the cold winter months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nature. Snowshoeing is one of the easiest ways to see nature at its best when it’s covered with a beautiful blanket of snow.
6) Do Some Birdwatching
Bird watching is another fun activity in which you can take part in during the winter months. There are many birds that stick around during this time, so it’s a great opportunity to become familiar with the birds in your own back yard or in the woods and forests nearby. Pickup a field guide on wild birds and try to identify as many as you can.
7) Take Some Winter Photos
Take photos. Winter is an especially beautiful time for photography because everything is covered with snow or frosted with ice crystals. The soft light makes for some gorgeous pictures!
8) Start an Outdoor Fire
9) Build a Snowman
This is a great activity to get your creative juices flowing. Hunt around the house for items to decorate your snowman (for extra delight, pull out the food coloring to dye the snow!) and create snowmen. Work as a team, let your creativity shine and get a chance to play outside with your hands–a perfect afternoon!
10) Collect Nature to Bring Indoors
One of my favorite winter activities is to go foraging for items to bring indoors to brighten up my home and add a little bit of cheer during what can be a dreary time of year. I like to collect pine boughs, winter berries, pinecones etc. and bring them inside to arrange in vases or to place on top of my fireplace mantle. These pops of color add a reminder that winter won’t last forever.
Top Gear to Help You Enjoy Nature in the Winter
Winter is a great time to enjoy the outdoors but can also be a challenge if you don’t have the proper gear to keep you warm and dry. Cold weather gear is essential for staying safe, comfortable and warm when you’re outside in winter.
Tempted to go sledding with the kids? Or maybe you want to go for a hike with your dog? How about just taking a walk around your neighborhood? Let’s face it, if you get too cold, the fun will end way sooner than you’ll probably want it to.
So, whatever your plans are for winter fun, it’s important to choose your clothing carefully.
Hands, feet, and heads are the parts of our bodies that get the coldest, so finding good mittens, gloves, boots, and hats is the first thing you need to do.
Check out the cold-weather outer wear basics below that you really must have for you and your kids to stay warm and keep having fun.
Must-Have Items for Keeping warm in the Snow
- Hats – with or without ear flaps
- Mittens or gloves, depending on preference (mittens tend to keep fingers warmer)
- Insulated and waterproof winter boots
- Warm socks – wool ones are best. I like merino wool as they’re soft and not itchy.
- Down Jacket or thick fleece with a windbreaker over it
- Snow pants for extra warmth and to keep you dry if sledding.
So, get outside and enjoy nature this winter. Explore your local park, your own backyard, or a natural area in your community. Whenever you find a new place to visit, remember to take a moment to appreciate it. Whether it’s hiking or cross-country skiing, looking at the stars or just enjoying winter’s bounty, there are plenty of ways for you to enjoy nature this winter season.
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