Can Walking Make Winter Better?

About ten years ago I bought a hat in New York City that changed my life. And, the funny thing is I didn’t realize it until just five minutes ago. 

I was just out walking and thinking about this blog post. It’s a cold Maryland afternoon that feels even colder than it is because the wind is moving around pretty good. I was thinking about one of my favorite aspects of walking…how it is a true mood lifter.

I struggle during the winter and I know I’m not alone. But, walking has been a game changer. I don’t like winter any more than I used to, but I’m able now to handle it better. In fact, as I walk in the cold I’m also now able to appreciate the unique beauty of the season.

There’s something magical about the late afternoon sun dropping below the horizon behind bare trees. The silhouette of empty branches with a winter sunset backdrop is breathtaking. Walking outside while the snow is falling quiets my soul. And, even a brisk winter wind can feel invigorating.

I don’t think I was able to enjoy any of this before that trip to New York.

I hate being cold. More specifically I hate it when my ears are cold. I’ll watch football games this time of year and wonder how those coaches, who are close to my age, can stand on the sidelines in freezing temperatures and not look bothered by their cold ears. 

About ten years ago I was in New York with my son Noah. We went up for the day to see Wicked on Broadway. We took the bus which dropped us off near the Empire State Building around 10:30a. We had a few hours before the play started so we decided to explore mid-town Manhattan.

It was a cold, windy day in January. The tall buildings created a tunnel effect that whipped the wind even faster at ground level. I was quickly miserable. Actually, my ears were miserable, which made the rest of me miserable.

Something had to change or this would not be the fun, memory making day I had planned with my son. Thankfully, there was a store selling souvenir NYC ski caps. I paid way too much and threw that thing on my head. My ears quickly warmed up and so did the rest of my day.

I kept that hat for almost nine years. I finally threw it out last winter because it was starting to get gross. It had been looking grungy for awhile, but it wasn’t until I found another ski cap that could keep my ears as warm that I felt OK to let go of my all-time favorite hat ever.

I didn’t realize how much that little hat changed my life until I was walking outside a few minutes ago. I wanted to write something encouraging about how walking can be a true game changer during winter. 

Research tells us how exercise can improve our mood. And, walking is the best form of mood changing exercise because you can do it anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to make a special trip to the gym. If you start feeling down, just go for a walk.

But, that’s so much easier when the weather is nice. It’s not nearly as fun when the weather is cold and windy and your ears get really cold which makes you even more miserable.

Unless you have a magic hat. 

That’s what I called my special overpriced NYC ski cap. I realized that I’m really OK with cold weather as long as my ears are warm. That hat changed my relationship with winter. Whenever I started feeling my mood sagging, I’d find my Magic Hat and go for a walk. 

If it was cold and windy, that hat made it OK. If it was snowing, that hat was my ticket to experience the beauty of winter. When I needed a walk to think through a blog post about walking outside in winter that hat made it possible.

I never realized that until just now.

That hat made me not afraid of being outside when it’s cold.

If you struggle with winter and your mood takes a hit, walking truly can be a seasonal game changer. But, if you don’t like being cold you might just miss out on this wonderful opportunity.

For me it was making my ears warm. What is it for you? Maybe you need a pair of Magic Socks to keep your feet happy. I bought a pair of wool socks last winter that I’ve used for some walks when it’s even colder than normal. They really make a difference. How about a pair of Magic Gloves that’ll keep your hands toasty? Or, perhaps some long underwear (not sure I want to call those magic).

Winter doesn’t have to be the automatic “stay inside” season. If that’s how winter feels for you, I invite you to go find your Magic Hat and start exploring. You’ll discover real beauty and perhaps even a lifting mood you didn’t think was possible this time of year.

Walking is a powerful and effective way to transform your winter blues into something much better. To help you be even more intentional about that I recommend you try a 30 Day Walking Challenge. There are three levels to choose from.

If you’ve never considered walking as a fitness activity, Level One will guide you through the process to transform your everyday walking into exercise. If you already use walking as part of your fitness journey, there are two additional levels to increase what you’re already doing. 

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

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