The gifts of winter
Do you have winter on your holiday gift-giving list? While you may be questioning my reason for asking, I believe every season has its own unique characteristics and gifts. And, winter is no exception even though it can bring more challenges than other seasons typically do. For example, just as we reach for heavier clothing such as jackets, gloves and hats, some plants keep their dead leaves for insulation and use excess snow as a blanket to help withstand the cold. Though we may be miserable out in the freezing cold, exposure to cold winter temperatures helps some plants begin flowering the following spring.
What gifts does Mother Nature’s winter season give us? In cold weather, you are more likely to burn calories faster, breathe fresher air, think clearer, have a better self-image, and spend more time bonding with loved ones which is good for the mind, body, and spirit. Want to feel like the Energizer bunny? Activities such as walking in the cold increases your energy for hours afterward. You don’t have to be in the cold for long, just a short period of time will have long-lasting effects.
Cooler temperatures are known to improve sleep, reduce stress and keep you in a happier frame of mind. Complex decision-making is easier in colder weather whereas warm temperatures tend to deplete resources such as glucose—an essential element for mental health. Winter means goodbye to all the bad air quality and high ozone levels so common in the spring and summer months. For the ladies, crisp air gives cheeks a rosy glow reducing the need to use blush or other makeup.
Contrary to what some might think about staying healthy, cells that fight infection in the body will increase with regular exposure to the cold. That’s an inexpensive way to reduce inflammation and guard against illness-another reason to take that daily walk, rain or shine.
The best gift of winter, especially around the holidays, is that after you’ve had an energizing walk, or enjoyed your favorite outdoor sport, you can get warm and cozy inside, and have a meaningful visit with a loved one by phone, Skype, or facetime. Be sure to add a cookie or two along with some hot chocolate or tea. Then, as the year draws to a close and you’re giving thanks for all that you are grateful for, I think winter deserves our appreciation as well. That’s my cue to say thank you to the readers of this column and wish you and your family a most happy holiday season.
Originally published, Orange County Register, December 12, 2019