5 tips on how to enjoy winter if you’re not a winter person

Pug wrapped up in a blanket — how I feel about winter. (Photo by Unsplash, Natthew Henry)

Pug wrapped up in a blanket — how I feel about winter. (Photo by Unsplash, Natthew Henry)

March 6, 2020 | by Wendy Ho

Have you ever seen the commercials where people frolic about in the snow or cross-country ski in the woods, and thought, “Canadian winter is great, but I’m more comfy on my couch”? I have, and I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. My cold-weather avoidance instinct trumps my desire to be outdoorsy. If only I could find ways to enjoy winter…

There are many benefits to being outside in nature, things that used to be anecdotal but are increasingly being studied and quantified. For example, research shows that walking in nature is better for memory recall and attention span than walking in an urban environment. Doctors are starting to prescribe nature for depression, stress and attention disorders. Exposure to sunlight on a brisk winter walk can also be a mood lifter, in general.

Many of us don’t need more evidence of why nature and being outside is good for us; we just need the motivation, especially in winter. Here are five tips I’ve gathered to help overcome the winter activity slump.

1. Stay warm

There’s a Norwegian saying that translates to “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” For cold bodies like me, dressing to keep my core warm is crucial for keeping my extremities warm. In addition to properly insulating yourself from the elements, a tip I recently received for staying warm is to start warm.

Just before you head outside, do some jumping jacks to get your blood pumping. Cold toes are the biggest reason why my winter walks are cut short. Circulation issues may play a part, but I’ve learned that too-thick socks can make your boots too tight and cut off circulation, leading to cold feet. Make sure you can wiggle your toes freely in your boots. If those two suggestions don’t work, you can always use heating packs in your mitts or over your socks. If your face is your problem area, garments like a balaclava can help with that.

2. Start small

Maple syrup taffy (Photo by Wikimedia Commons, Jaime Walker, CC BY 2.0)

Maple syrup taffy (Photo by Wikimedia Commons, Jaime Walker, CC BY 2.0)

Enjoying nature in the winter can be as brief as a 15-minute walk; it doesn’t need to be a full-day outing. Take advantage of the white stuff by making maple taffy on snow. Or stop by a waterbody for a few minutes to observe the migrant or resident waterfowl. You can also take a detour to admire the winter scenery on your commute. It doesn’t need to be an hours-long adventure, although you can probably build the endurance for one with small steps like these.

Enjoy a hot cuppa at the end of an outing. (Photo by Unsplash, Simon Migaj)

Enjoy a hot cuppa at the end of an outing. (Photo by Unsplash, Simon Migaj)

3. Set your sight on a reward

Do you get motivated by the thought of a heated car or coffee shop, or a cup of hot chocolate or delicious turmeric ginger tea at the end of a winter outing? Plan for a post-winter outing and make the reward of getting out of your comfort zone something to look forward to.

4. Share the experience with a friend

Me and my husband, who is hunkered down for the cold, at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, Toronto. (Photo by Wendy Ho/ NCC staff)

Me and my husband, who is hunkered down for the cold, at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, Toronto. (Photo by Wendy Ho/ NCC staff)

Some people are completely at ease in solitude, while others can feel more motivated with an entourage. Beyond safety reasons, having a buddy while exploring the outdoors can be a good time to connect in ways you might not otherwise have time for.

Earlier this winter, I convinced my husband to watch waterfowl with me at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto. As much as we both are not winter people, we enjoyed the crunch of snow under our boots and seeing many ducks near the shore. And then I heard the most brilliant thing from him: “I know what winter walking is good for: relationships! It’s too cold to take your hands out [of your pockets], so you can’t play on the phone!”

5. Spend time observing your surroundings

Black-capped chickadee in winter (Photo by NCC)

Black-capped chickadee in winter (Photo by NCC)

 

Look for interesting things. Although winter may seem quiet and lifeless, nature is still bustling with life. Look for tracks on the snow, or scat that animals leave behind. Which plants still hold their leaves or berries, and which ones show signs of being visited by critters?

Although there are not as many birds out and about in winter, it’s a great time for birdwatching. For forest-dwelling birds, the branches are bare and it’s much easier to observe the birds and follow their movements.

My biggest hurdle to enjoying winter is being cold, so I plan on better protecting my hands and feet and start taking brisk walks during work breaks. In fact, I’ve been doing a mini-warmup before my walks now and it seems to keep my feet warmer longer. Do you have tried-and-tested tips for surviving winter? Share them with us at landlines@natureconservancy.ca.

Wendy Ho (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Wendy Ho is Nature Conservancy of Canada's editorial coordinator.

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