Days might be getting darker and colder, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Practice physical and mental fitness through the seasons to stay healthy and happy.
“Life and business are like the changing seasons. You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself. Therein lies the opportunity to live an extraordinary life. The opportunity to change yourself”- Jim Rohn
Wearing flip-flops and sunglasses in the winter will not move the temperature, but could it shift your mindset? It’s probably not so much what you wear, but what you do can make a difference in your mood during the colder months. Embracing a winter activity or continuing a summer pastime through the seasons could increase your happiness. The Nordic region, famous for its cold seasons and polar nights, has a population ranked highest on The World Happiness Report, largely thanks to their mindset. Preparing for seasonal changes with a positive perspective can lead to improved health.
Seasonal Changes Affect People Biologically
When the leaves begin to fall and the crisp air bites us on the nose, a retreat for a warm blanket also means decreased activity. As the seasons switch, days become shorter, and nights are longer. Up to 60% of Americans and adults across Europe state that they have less motivation to workout during the shorter, colder days. Circadian rhythms get boggled, serotonin levels decrease due to the reduced sunlight, and even melatonin levels drop affecting sleep patterns and mood. These factors play a part in developing the behaviors of how we exercise, work, and play with the change of seasons.
Low mood and energy levels, irritability, cravings, and more are symptoms related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (*SAD). SAD can impact physical and mental health by disrupting sleep and daily activity routines. Boston University found that SAD affects up to 10 million Americans and 2-8% of the total population of Europe is affected according to the European Journal of Public Health. SAD symptoms most often show up in the fall and winter when days are shorter. Relief comes with the warmer days of Spring, but it’s important not to wait for the change of seasons to get help. Keeping connected with friends and family and engaged in routine activity can help alleviate some of the disruption caused by SAD. 85% of preventative treatment in Germany includes lifestyle changes. Most interesting are those countries that face polar night as growth opportunities. These “opportunities” present problem-solving and resilience training and prove the ability to adapt. In Nordic countries, the fright of winter is overcome by embracing the challenge rather than viewing the cold as a threat.
4 Practices for Positive Physical and Mental Health in All Seasons:
Don’t get bogged down by long sets or cumbersome workout plans. Dedicate just 20 minutes to one or any combination of these four practices. As your positive mindset and motivation increase so will your health.
Keep a Routine
Transitioning a daily routine through the seasons continues progress toward long-term goals and can eliminate winter woes. Step up to the challenge that the seasons bring your routine and embrace them by adding diversity to your physical and mental workout. Keeping a daily routine that includes exercise is a key ingredient to reducing symptoms of SAD. When time is short due to holiday events or family obligations, create a simple physical workout with a balance between cardio and strength training to stay active year-round. Incorporate as little as 20 minutes of mindfulness, such as meditation or yoga to reduce anxiety levels and decrease stress. Don’t give up when your day did not go as planned, take a 15-minute walk, or pause for a moment to reflect on a highlight of your day.
From COVID-19 and the flu season to low energy levels; fall and winter can leave people with anxiety, concentration difficulties, and even depression. Reverse the downward trajectory with purposeful intention to build community during the holidays. Less daylight does not mean less opportunity to connect with friends and family. Join a friend on a gift-shopping trip. Don’t skip the parties or the holiday foods and celebration drinks, just be mindful of balance. Build relationships with accountability partners and choose to partake when friends and family are present. Take advantage of seasonal savings for group fitness courses that can counter some of those extra calories. Include loved ones in your daily routine through workout programs, a 15-minute check-in, or a team goal.
Wellness through the Seasons
We know that we must give extra attention to both our physical and mental health during the onset of shorter days. Practicing balance while connecting with friends and keeping an active routine can significantly alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress. Seasonal changes may decrease daylight, but they don’t have to damper your mood. Be intentional and find opportunities to improve your wellness in every season.
*For more information on SAD and individual treatment plans speak with a medical professional today.
Equipped with a Master's Degree in Human Movement- Exercise Science, a Dual-Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Exercise Science, and multiple recognized NCCA accredited certifications, Michelle’s mission is to help individuals seeking personal growth and discovery to become the best version of themselves. Michelle is an innovator, author, and public speaker. Her work centers around equity, inclusion, and both mental and physical well-being.
Edited by Alisa Maloney, Core Health and Fitness Marketing Content Specialist