Just four percent of adults 55 and over say winter is their favorite season, according to a YouGov poll. And in the Midwest, winter can be a tricky thing: You never quite know what you’re going to get.
If you’re one of the 95 percent who doesn’t love this season, December through April can seem gloomy. But since it’s such a large chunk of the year, there’s no reason we can’t learn to embrace winter.
Learn about ways to make the season more fulfilling and enjoyable.
Staying Safe in the Wintertime
Keeping yourself safe during the winter is no joke. With freezing temperatures, slippery ice, and snowstorms, it does require some planning and maybe doing things a bit differently.
First up, know that older adults are more at risk for hypothermia - even indoors. It’s tempting to lower your thermostat to save money, but experts recommend keeping the temperature at least 68-70 degrees.
If you do venture outdoors, make sure to use common sense. Dress in lots of layers, even if you’ll only be outside for a short time. Wear a hat and scarf to reduce heat loss from your head and neck, and go indoors to change if your clothes get wet.
Take extra caution if you’re driving in the wintertime. Keep your car stocked with essentials - including warm blankets and clothing - and tell someone where you’re going. If possible, don’t drive at all in bad weather, or call someone else to take you.
Know the signs of hypothermia. They include:
- Pale skin, shivering, and confusion in early stages.
- Shallow breathing, jerky movements, and trouble walking in later stages.
Call 911 if you think you or someone else is experiencing hypothermia.
Feeling Your Best in Winter
Of course, taking care of the basics, like safety, doesn’t mean you’ll feel your best during the season. To do that, it’s important to address various areas of wellness. Below are suggestions for just a few of the areas we highlight at Otterbein.
This one can be tough: After an indulgent holiday season, eating right and exercising might be the last things on your mind. And the vibrant strawberries and tomatoes of summer couldn’t feel farther away.
It might not seem like it, but eating a well-balanced diet and exercising can have enormous impacts on your mood as well as your body. So take the time to incorporate both for a healthy lifestyle this season.
For example, exercising doesn’t have to be done outdoors. Head to a gym with a friend, or watch workout videos at home to get some physical activity. If you do go outside, a brisk walk can help you take in fresh air and a little sunshine - just dress warmly and avoid the ice.
When it comes to eating well, you might be surprised at what’s actually in season during the winter - things like:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Citrus fruits
Learn more about what’s available and get recipes here.
The dark days and cold temperatures of winter can make you want to head indoors and curl up under a blanket. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it makes you happy.
Some people have a harder time during the winter because of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD is a form of depression that affects people in the wintertime, mainly because of the lack of sunlight. If you think you might be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor. It’s a very common condition and can have some simple treatments.
Even if you don’t have SAD, you might not enjoy winter because it seems hard to get out and do things. Again, a little creativity can go a long way here. Socializing with others, trying new things, and staying active all add up to improving your mood.
Try some of these ideas for keeping your mind engaged this winter.
- Host a get-together for friends at your home. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy - some snacks and drinks and a board game will do. See if your group can make it a regular date.
- Use your time indoors to your advantage. Pick up a new hobby or get back into an old one with the help of books, videos, or a nearby class.
- Speaking of books, there’s no better time to read than in the winter. Whether it’s the latest novel or a hefty classic, enjoy the feeling of a cozy night in with your favorite book.
- Plan for the future. You might not be outdoors now, but in a few short months, the snow will be gone and the trees green again. Start planning some of the fun things you’d like to do this spring and summer.
- Do something nice for someone else. Helping others can lift your spirits, help you recognize the positive things in your life, and get you out of the house.
Embrace the Season
You might have heard about the Danish concept of hygge - a word, loosely translated, that means coziness or comfort. Americans have gone crazy for it over the last few years, seeing it as a new way of enjoying winter. But it doesn’t mean you need to run out and buy a knit throw or scented candles, as some articles suggest.
Instead, take the concept - effortless comfort - and apply it to your own life. It might help to re-frame your mindset about winter. Although many people don’t like the season, it’s an inevitable part of life just as much as summer. And there’s no need to wait until summer to enjoy life or do the things you love.
Think about the wintertime activities or events that don’t happen at any other time of the year and take a moment to appreciate them. For example, there’s the view of freshly-fallen snow, the clear stillness of a cold morning, and the feeling of being warm inside while a storm rages outside.
It might take a different way of seeing things, but you can come to grips with - and even enjoy - the Midwest’s most fickle season.
Learn About the Nine Degrees of Complete Wellness
Taking care of yourself during the winter includes many aspects of wellness. At Otterbein, we focus on nine degrees of wellness to help all residents achieve complete health. The nine degrees include:
Explore all nine of these dimensions and get tips for applying them in your own life with our free guide. Download your copy today to get started.