Outside of the tropics, winter is a time of rest. It's a time when much of the natural world begins to turn inward and withdraw into itself. Everything slows down, insulates itself, reacting and responding to the colder temperatures—including us humans.
Unless you’re that rare person who prefers cold temperatures, odds are you think weather is an unpleasant thing. With that attitude, it’s easy to take this period of rest a bit too far. You might spend days inside, cocooned against the cold, except when you absolutely have to go out into the chill for work, errands, etc. For some, the combination of shorter hours of daylight combined with cold temperatures and snow, can make healthy rest veer off into lethargy and borderline depression.
But it really doesn’t have to be that way. To quickly change your perspective on winter, one of the easiest things to do is to start participating in an activity that is dependent on winter conditions, or takes on a new meaning in winter. All of sudden, rather than dreading snow and colder temperatures, they become something to look forward to. They are no longer impediments or nuisances, but rather something to seek out.
Choose a Winter Activity
Besides the perhaps obvious winter activities of downhill or cross-country skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing and winter hiking offer fresh, unique, and often strikingly beautiful perspectives on the natural world. Even water sports can continue in winter. For example, surfers regularly take to the waves, even with snow on the ground, albeit wearing thick hooded wetsuits with gloves and booties. Running and biking don't have to stop in the cold either. The same goes for walking daily.
All it takes to enjoy outdoor winter activities is the appropriate clothing. It does require an upfront investment, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a large expense.
Being properly outfitted for winter is always prudent, but becomes much more important when temperatures drop steeply. A night spent outside unexpectedly in the summer may leave you uncomfortable and hungry, but it can harm you in the winter. Know your limits, your experience, and make sure your family or friends know what you’re up to. If you’re headed into less-traveled areas, going in groups of at least three is wise.
Enjoy the Solitude
With the exception of resort-based activities, where you’ll likely be surrounded by people, one of the greatest advantages of getting out into nature in winter is the solitude. Even the most popular trails, tracks, and beaches often clear out quickly come December. Slow-moving activities naturally lend themselves to reflection, concentration, and an experience of being present in your surroundings. Even faster-moving sports can bring quasi-meditative experiences, particularly once you’ve become proficient at them.
Make It Sustainable
To help ensure that the nature you’re enjoying can be equally appreciated sustainably into the future, choose a winter activity that can be done locally, with minimal travel. If you’re looking to really gain a new perspective on the season it’s better to frequently get out into the weather, doing something that is easily undertaken nearby, than to take long-distance trips. It's also easier to sustain an activity you can do just by stepping out your door than one you have to travel for.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what activity you choose. Everyone has different preferences, budgets, and time constraints. Whatever your specific situation, the key to truly experiencing the season is to not fight the weather and wish it was something other than it is. Feeling it, being out in it, and accepting it openly, can make winter all the more enjoyable.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies