Get cold … it will make you feel better!

We live in Thompson, Manitoba. There is snow on the ground at least six months of the year. It’s winter a lot and that’s cool with me (pun intended).

I keep winter from being dark and dreary, literally and figuratively, by getting cold sometimes and I think you should, too. People like me often pitch us on being active in winter for physical fitness, but I am sure it does more for my mental fitness.

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When say cold, I don’t mean frostbitten or hypothermic! What I mean is below zero and sometimes mildly uncomfortable but dressed for it and safe.

I can see that from the outside, I am a bit of a stereotype for someone who would write a piece like this,… I am a 48-year-old man with a family, good job and a minivan. We are a one-vehicle family, we compost and recycle, I listen to public radio and eat mostly vegetarian.

I have always been active but the last 10 years I have really embraced active transportation. I walk and cycle to work exclusively and many other times of the day, too. I could drive around if I wanted to so this is a choice not a necessity. I get that I represent a small, somewhat privileged piece of society but we all have feelings and to me this is a pretty easy way for anyone to feel good, so get out and get cold.

Top five reasons I get cold on purpose:

  1. 73 degrees is boring.For the first time in the history of history we live in a largely climate-controlled environment. Everywhere we go is 73 degrees … our heated house, air-conditioned car, glass-walled office ... you see where I am going with this. We lose some of the good feelings that come with different temperatures at different times of the day … coming in to a warm house after a winter walk … a breeze blowing in a window on a hot day … sleeping in cold room under a big blanket. Somehow, we are starting to fear temperature changes. I think there are more good than bad feelings that come with different temperatures at different times of the day. There is joy in being outside from +30 to -30, but if you eat the same thing for lunch everyday … maybe stay inside.
  2. I’m an explorer but risk-averse.I look forward to going toe-to-toe with Mother Nature, braving some nasty weather. I feel like I have pushed myself and accomplished something that the SUVers are too soft to do. But, instead of bivouacking and eating freeze-dried rations, I still sleep on a pillowtop bed, eat fresh fruit, and I’m never more than five minutes from a safe haven. I am an outdoor adventurer and never in real danger.
  3. I double down.I listen to podcasts when I am on the move. I do double duty, getting to work and learning something or listening to an interesting story at the same time. If you are curious … my list is heavily documentary, public radio sort of stuff (stereotypical, I know) but there are some outliers in there, too (can you say Snow Day Podcast?) Email me and I’ll happily share my list.
  4. I get off my A**.I sit in a temperature-controlled office too much. Fresh air and a little vitamin D from real sunlight balance out the artificial light and help chase away SAD (seasonal affective disorder) …all a pleasant 180-degree change from the cubicle farm.
  5. White is different than green.A town looks and acts different in winter than summer … being part of the sights, sounds and smells of my city puts a smile on my slightly weathered face. In my humble opinion, all those are best experienced at a human pace.

Try getting cold, you might see there are very few really “bad” weather days and winter doesn’t feel so cold and dark … literally and figuratively. I think we’ve been tricked. We think we should get outside and be active for our physical health when for me, it’s a mental health activity.

P.S. Here are some things you probably already know about being active in winter

  1. Dress in layers … don’t worry about expensive special clothes … you are Canadian you have warm clothes … check your phone and put on more if it is cold.
  2. You need fewer clothes than you think; moving makes you warm. (Thanks, Captain Obvious.)
  3. You already know how. Walking is still just one foot in front of the other … biking is still just pushing the pedals (although maybe a little less leaning into the corners). It’s the same as every other time of year.
  4. Give yourself a little more time.
  5. Wear a tuque.
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