As the winter chills sets in and the days grow shorter, many of us find ourselves retreating indoors, often surrendering to the sedentary lure of cozy

The Power of Winter Walks: Boosting Mental Health Through Nature

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

As the winter chills sets in and the days grow shorter, many of us find ourselves retreating indoors, often surrendering to the sedentary lure of cozy blankets and the warm glow of screens. However, this seasonal shift, while seemingly a time for hibernation, presents a unique opportunity to invigorate our mental health through a simple yet profoundly effective activity: winter walks.

Heart Matters[1]  affirms, “fans of winter walking know that it brings its own pleasures. Shorter days make it easier to admire the sunrise or sunset. If you are lucky, you might spot snowdrops or other early spring flowers, and frost can add a different beauty on the coldest days. Still, even on an overcast day, there is plenty to take in. You get to enjoy nature’s gems, especially if you take woodland walks and canal walks.”

What are the benefits of exercise in colder weather[2] ? Burn more calories; sleep better; cooler temperatures boost your brain; fight infections; rejuvenate skin; practicing sport when it is cold gives the heart a more intense workout; assist in maintaining a healthy weight; reduce stress; camaraderie; range of other health benefits.

Before heading to the park, the National Park Service[3] , recommends:

  1. Bring the right gear: layers of clothing, warm outer layers, sunglasses and sunscreen, and lots of water and snacks.
  2. Know where you are going, don’t rely on cell phones.
  3. Check the weather forecast.
  4. Know trail conditions in your park before you start.
  5. Consider leaving pets at home.
  6. Discuss your plans with family, friends, and park staff at visitor centers.

If you are here, in Washington DC, where can you go[4] ?

  • Seneca Creek State Park
  • Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
  • Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
  • National Zoo

Now, if we mention the benefits of winter walks and mental health, “the best way to reap the mental benefits is hiking is to go solo. It becomes easier to be one with nature when that’s all you are surrounded by. During the winter, hiking trails aren’t as crowded as they are during other times of the year[5] .”

Another source, The Journal[6] , affirms, “hikers keep coming back because they say the winter outings have helped them heal, transform, grow, reduce stress, and reclaim their confidence again. That’s huge for anyone, especially women of color who are disproportionately susceptible to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Healing in nature doesn’t have to stop in the fall.”

In conclusion, the simple act of embarking on winter walks offers a surprising powerful tool in our quest for mental wellbeing. Amidst the brisk air and the quiet beauty of a landscape in repose, we find not only a refuge from the chaos of daily life but also a path to rejuvenation and clarity. By stepping out into the cold, we embrace a unique form of therapy provided by nature herself, one that nurtures our mental health, revitalizes our spirits, and reconnects us with the calming rhythm of the natural world.








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