Let’s Try These 2 Outdoor Experiments to Get Us Through Gross, Hard Winter (Outdoor Diary)

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Humans Outside episode 351

If the deep, dark winter and cold are hitting you like a ton of bricks just like they are hitting me, it might be time to stand back and remember what you’ve done in the past that can boost your mood this time of year.

It’s OK to say you hate the darkness and winter weather. Saying it out loud helps me move through it. But what isn’t going to help me is giving up and hating it from my couch. So to fight back I’m trying a pair new outdoor habit experiments to see if they can help my mood and get me through the dark months.

Learn more in this episode.

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] We’ve got the outdoor blahs

[1:00] Oh, hi seasonal depression

[3:00] Let’s just acknowledge that everything actually is terrible

[3:39] Busting me out of this mood in two parts

[3:54] Chasing daylight

[5:20] One big adventure, one little adventure

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

It took about two weeks of the blahs before I realized what was going on with me. Hello seasonal depression, my old friend. We meet again.

After more than 6 years of a daily outdoor habit, it’s safe to say that getting outside every day is just a part of who I am. I am enthusiastically an outdoor lover. But recently my outdoor love has been largely theoretical. Sure I’m still out there. But I’ve been hating it.

It’s dark. It’s cold. Everything is covered in this awful ice that is hard to walk on. I slipped and fell and banged my knee, so now that hurts. We had a few days of rain that ruined the snow, so all the great skiing disappeared. My neighborhood was like an ice skating rink, and to prove the point I literally took my ice skates out on the street for a few minutes.

It was legitimately terrible.

My displeasure with all of this peaked this past week as I walked through the darkness of my small town. It was 6 p.m., it had been dark already for hours. I was really over it. Earlier that day I watched the sun rise and then set again from my office desk, a span of 6ish hours between the two.

I remembered back to past winters where I felt like this some of the time, and how I made myself feel better.

And I realized that, just like in the past, getting through the winter is a fight. That even if I don’t want to go outside, I have to. And that to make it work for me I had to work at it a little harder than normal.

I realized my current outdoor habit patterns aren’t cutting it right now. If they were, I wouldn’t feel this way. I have to form a new habit within a habit.

In past winters I’ve been at a full time job that had me starting work early in the morning and finish early to mid afternoon with plenty of time to get outside in the daylight.

But these days I’m working on freelance or other projects early in the morning, doing a day job until after the sun sets, and wedging in sunset walks at the last possible minute during a short work break or simply going outside after dark. There have been many of those days where I watch sunrise and sunset from my desk, barely leaving my little office. It’s not working for me.

But I know what has worked for me, and that’s a start. So I set out a little ongoing experiment this week to break myself out of this rut and see if I can make myself feel better. My experiment has two parts and a preamble.

First, the preamble. Let’s just acknowledge again that yes, it’s terrible. It’s totally OK to say that even as the outdoor lover that I am. It really is completely awful and I hate it. I hate the ice. I hate the wind. I hate the drifting snow. I hate that I constantly am misplacing some needed item crucial to staying warm out there.

I hate it. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to stay inside and give up. It’s just a fact.

Ok, on to the experiment to make me feel better in two parts.

First, I’m going to make an effort –and I mean that, because it’s going to take planning and remembering that things will wait for me if I step away for a few minutes — to get outside more consistently during actual daylight. And I’m going to rely on the “one big adventure, one little adventure” rule.

First, the daylight. There’s this thing I do — I think a lot of us do it, honestly — where I think things won’t wait for me, that as much of an hour delay is too much, that all things need me urgently. That there’s no way to squeeze in what I want to do.

But that is a lie, at least in most cases. If I stand back and look at my schedule, I know that I absolutely can take even up to an hour away from my desk mid-day to go outside when it’s light outside. If it takes me 10 minutes to find all of my stuff, and I drive 10 minutes down the road and 10 minutes back so that I can go to a trail I don’t usually frequent or do something more wild, like what I did on the first day of this experiment, popping on ice skates to cruise around a lake, I have 30 minutes to be outside enjoying the whole thing. Sure, Ill probably need to eat lunch at my desk instead of during another break. Yes, Ill have to be better at skirting the siren song of social media breaks the rest of the time. But it can be done.

After my first moment of understanding Monday, I made sure I got outside during the daylight three days in a row, first by that ice skate, then by going for a quick ski on new snow in the woods, and finally on a day with bonus flexibility, by going and getting in a longer workout on some trails. I won’t be able to do it every day, but I can do it enough to make it a regular thing, and I bet that daylight helps me even if it’s just a little bit.,

Next, the weekly practice of one big adventure, one little adventure. In her book Tranquility by Tuesday, Laura Vanderkam talks about each week doing at least two things that are worth remembering — one short thing and one longer thing. Ive recently traded in big and little outdoor things that take effort for lots of tv time inside. That’s the weight of the dark winter getting to me.

But when I spend just a few minutes thinking ahead of time about what I can do that might be a big adventure and a little adventure over the week and then get after it, I have a real, noticeable mood boost.

First, doing that gives me something to look forward to. All week I have been excited about the time I’ve set aside to go to opening day on the downhill ski hill. That’s my big adventure because it’s a little bit of a longer drive, and it’s going to be cold, and I am going to be snowboarding which Im kind of terrible at so it’s painful. And if you are going to experience pain on purpose you better be able to call it a big adventure.

My little adventure was that lunch break on ice skates. It was different enough that it added spice and life to my week, but small enough that even getting ready, driving there and back and skating took no more than an hour. And what a lovely hour it was.

I’ve heard from many of you that you, too, are feeling the weight of winter darkness and gross weather recently. I hope you can join me in exploring whether some daylight outdoor time and a few adventures big or little help things improve.

You can see photos of all of my outdoor time on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I want to see your photos too. Share them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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