It’s mid-January and we are almost at the heart of winter. The cold makes itself known all the way to the bone. The wind howls through any space that will let it. A white blanket of snow makes it hard to believe that just 6 months ago we were poolside in the midst of blue skies and a green landscape. I guess you have to endure the cold and ice to really appreciate the heat and sunshine.
In the winter it is especially important to make an effort at staying healthy. Due to the weather we tend to be less active, stay indoors and have less social interaction. It is an easy trap to fall into and blaming the weather is an excuse we make all too often. But we must make a conscious effort to stay mentally, physically and socially healthy.
This might be the most important branch of health because it can affect your mood and how you view your physical and social health as well. An important part of staying mentally healthy over the winter is to be engaged. Instead of watching that extra episode on Netflix, you can spend that time reading a book, doing a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle. Just do something that makes you think. Your mind needs to be exercised. Even some simple mental stimulation can feed into some positive thoughts, and all of a sudden the weather doesn’t seem so bad,
This requires some mental fortitude. After finishing a section of your 1000 piece puzzle you might consider a well deserved rest. But wait! We need to get that heart pumping a bit first. Finding things to do during the winter might be intimidating because apathy seems to set in more quickly than usual. But you don’t necessarily need a gym membership or workout routine to stay active. There are typically open gym hours at churches and schools. You can get involved in a team sport or just use the gym for some individual practice. However, the best thing you can do is something so simple you probably wouldn’t expect it – walking. If you can dedicate about an hour of just walking a few times per week (so 3-5 hours per week), you can reap some great aerobic benefits. Walking is one the best and most fundamental exercises you can do, but it is often overlooked because of its simplicity. So start going for regular walks and collect your thoughts, or grab a friend and have a chat. The bottom line is as long as you’re doing something active, you are doing your part to keep yourself healthy. The tough part is making the commitment. It helps to make a schedule. That way you have some structure and some accountability to keep it.
Last but not least is social health. In the winter it is especially tempting to stay home and just do your own thing. OK, maybe you can’t have picnics and barbecues like in the summer, but I would be willing to bet there is a coffee shop close by. Get some friends together and catch up or discuss some current events or even a book. Meet at someone’s house to play games or have a party around a sporting or political event. Make it a weekly or biweekly thing to meet with people! We humans crave interaction, and a couple laughs and a stimulating conversation is just what the doctor ordered. The winter can be long and dreary, but if you spend some time with others who are going through the same thing, then it doesn’t seem so bad. Empathy and mutual support can go a long way, but you have to make the effort.
Mental, physical and social health tend to run in unison. Either you have them all or you lack them all. If you make time for these things now, you will thank yourself later. Your overall health and the functionality of your immune system directly correlate with the combination of these 3 things.
Now, I realize we all have busy schedules and sometimes doing even a few extra things per week seems like an unrealistic expectation, but I encourage you to make the effort to do so. If you have to, maybe cut something out of your current schedule. You can even combine some of these activities to make better use of your time. For example, playing a game with your family can serve as mental and social stimulation, or a walk with a friend can serve as physical and social. Your health is very important. Don’t jeopardize it because of apathy, and don’t use winter as an excuse.
Have a productive winter and stay healthy!