Forcing myself to get outside to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cuddling at home under a soft, cozy blanket this entire winter may sound ideal, but, if you have seasonal affective disorder like me, this can have negative consequences. According to an article from Psychology Today, not only can exercising outside double as an antidepressant, but the change of scenery can also be beneficial to your mental health. 

While some easy fixes like light therapy have worked to ease my depression during the winter, I would say that forcing myself to go outside usually helps more. I come home with a feeling of accomplishment, my body worn out from the cold and slowly warming up, pushing me into a deep sleep.

Make Going Outside Convenient

In the winter, just putting on boots is half the struggle. I recently bought a pair of waterproof slip-on shoes from L.L. Bean because having to put on boots makes it seem like so much more of a chore to go outside in the cold. These new shoes are quick and easy to slip on, so I now have one less barrier to getting out the door.

Even in these below-freezing temperatures lately, I’ve been able to get myself promptly out the door without a fuss. There hasn’t been a whole lot of my usual winter procrastination when it comes to running errands or taking a walk when it’s slightly less chilly. The shoes have been helpful, but I even took it a step further.

Ski Trip In Boyne Falls

This year, I decided that I wanted to go on a ski trip for my birthday. My boyfriend and his daughter love to snowboard, so they planned a 3-day excursion for us to visit Boyne Falls, Mich. — a popular place to ski and snowboard. Because I haven’t been skiing in years, I anticipated plenty of falls and bruises. 

When we reached Boyne Falls, I found it difficult to get used to the low temperature. But I was also excited to go skiing again, so I bundled up and powered through it. We finally arrived at Boyne Mountain and I was eager to start.

We put on our gear and headed toward the bunny hill. When I got to the top, I didn’t hesitate like I had thought I would. I carefully made my way down the slope and thought back to the beginner techniques I was taught as a kid. The snowplow (or forming a pizza shape with the skis) was my best friend, keeping me at a slow and steady pace.

Eventually, I was ready to try the beginner hill which was longer and steeper than the bunny hill. The only real fear I had was going on the chairlift. I sat in between my boyfriend and his daughter which eased some of my anxiety. The chairlift had one thin bar securing us in place. Needless to say, I was very happy when it finally dropped us off and I felt exhilarated skiing down the beginner hill.

We later learned that it was one degree Fahrenheit and would drop to negative nine in the middle of the night. With all of the activities keeping me preoccupied, the frigid air was actually pretty low on my list of my concerns.

The next day was my birthday. It got off to a rocky start when I accidentally got stuck riding the chairlift by myself. I gripped the frozen, metal sides of the chair for dear life and tried to stay alert through my lightheadedness. When the lift dumped me at the hilltop, I sat down and waited for my knees to stop shaking. My boyfriend apologized profusely for leaving me behind and insisted on waiting with me until my legs stopped convulsing. I was able to get back up after a few minutes and enjoy the rest of my skiing experience.

While I’m now glad to be back home resting after a weekend full of exercise, I also can’t wait to go skiing again. My fear of heights was certainly an obstacle and I have blisters on my hands to show for it, but at least there was no time to be in my head and focusing on my depression. In fact, any seasonal depression I had been feeling had disappeared completely. 

Staying busy and being outdoors helps me when I’m depressed, but is not a fix for everyone. Everybody heals differently and some benefit most from regular old therapy. Plus, there are always others who can relate. The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately 5 percent of adults living in the United States experience seasonal affective disorder. You are not alone.


Caitlin Renton is a copy editor and writer from Michigan. She owns and manages the website with the latest technology news happening in the Rust Belt area. In her downtime, she likes to curl up with a good horror novel while cuddling with her cats.

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