Hibernating can lead to depression, lethargy


It sure is easy to crank up the heater, turn on the TV and stay indoors during winter. Lots of people do it, and winter weather provides plenty of excuses to avoid going outdoors.

Pick your poison: It’s too cold, too wet, there’s too much snow, the days are too short, the roads are too bad.

It’s so socially acceptable to lay low during winter that people who go outdoors are often seen as the ones who are off-kilter.

But hibernators don’t know what they’re missing. Winter has its own rewards, like those blasts of lung-clearing cold air, Mother Nature putting on her black-and-white art show across the landscape and good ol’ winter snow sports.

It doesn’t matter whether you slide downhill on skis or a snowboard, fire up your snowmobile or strap on your snowshoes — there’s a lot to do out there. Getting outdoors clears your head and puts you in a better mood. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from those anonymous sages on the Internet.

Check out these symptoms from Google Health for seasonal affective disorder, the clinical term for cabin fever stemming from lack of exposure to sunlight. I know the symptoms of SAD are like a checklist for my wintertime blues when I get trapped indoors too long:

• Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration. (Especially at work on a powder day.)

• Carbohydrate cravings. (Break out the ice cream!)

• Increased appetite with weight gain. (Damn that ice cream!)

• Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. (And I thought it was the TV putting me to sleep.)

• Lack of energy. (So that’s why I’m not training for a marathon.)

• Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement. (Every day, around 7 a.m.)

Yes, we’re all prone to getting stuck indoors, but here are some ways to motivate yourself to get outdoors.

• Buy good winter clothes and shoes: It’s a great feeling to bundle up and head outdoors knowing you’re going to be toasty warm and comfortable on a frigid day.

• Pay close attention to your head, hands and feet. If you can keep them warm, you will be amazed how easy it is to keep the rest of your body warm.

• Do it for your dog. Ever see a dog refuse to take a walk or play fetch because of the weather? Didn’t think so. Take a cue from Fido.

• Make a pact with your spouse, family or buddies to go unless it’s unsafe, and have a backup plan. If the weather is too nasty for your favorite winter activity, hit a local park or just take a stroll along the Greenbelt.

• Learn a new winter sport, even if you already have a favorite. Sign up for lessons. It forces you to make a commitment.

• Adapt your favorite fair-weather sports to winter conditions. Usually all you need is more clothes and a different attitude. If you like fishing in the summer, you can do it in winter, too. Winter stream season is open, and there’s always ice fishing.

• Several bird-hunting seasons are open until mid- to late January, and you’re bound to have more room to roam without bumping into other hunters.

• Be satisfied with shorter trips. Days are shorter in winter, and doing things in cold weather seems to take more energy. Depending on your sport, an hour or two outdoors can be plenty.

• Go ahead and indulge. Go for a winter hike, for a snowshoe trip, skiing or snowmobiling and then stop at your favorite restaurant for a big meal. The food always tastes better when you’ve worked up a good appetite.

Don’t over-think it. Put on your coat and walk around your neighborhood, or visit a nearby park. Just get out and breathe some fresh air and feel the sun on your face.

Remember a few months back when it was sweltering hot and you were wishing for cooler weather? It’s here. Take advantage of it.

(c) 2009, The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho).


Previous articleCU’s commitment to science, math recognized by Obama
Next article2 more men arrested in suspected plot to bomb New York targets