January is setting in. Darker days are amidst us, albeit we are gradually returning to the light.
Whether Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects you or you are just looking for a lift to get you through the winter blahs, you are bound to find happiness up at the hill. Apex Mountain is a way to get above the clouds that close in on the valley. Getting outside is a way to gain more light despite these long winter nights.
Getting Outside. This is a simple doctor’s prescription. Or mother’s wisdom. Spending more time outdoors does wonders for boosting your perspective. Breathing fresh mountain air. Soaking some sun’s rays above the clouds can dampen the effects of seasonal affective disorder. And while you are at it, getting in some outdoor exercise is effective at reducing the winter blahs. The European Centre for Environment and Human Health analyzed 11 randomized trials on the effects of exercising outdoors. They found that there was an improvement in mental well being including increased energy, feeling more revitalized and greater enjoyment in those who exercised outdoors vs. getting your fitness in a gym. Added bonus to outdoor activity is gaining natural Vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is known to boost your immunity, reduce inflammation and combat depression. Vitamin D is readily absorbed from the sun’s rays on your forehead. Spend some time in the village reducing your goggle tan.
Be Present. Mindfulness is a state of mind keeping your attention on the present moment. It is a simple practice of reducing brain chatter and mind wandering. When taken to a level of regular practice, mindfulness based meditation can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Daily practice can calm your mind and body to better cope with stress and let go of worrisome thoughts. A way to naturally bring mindfulness into your life is on the ski hill. It becomes effortless to remain in the moment when you are skiing. You can’t let life’s worries overcome you when you are skiing a technical run. Your mind automatically shifts quickly into being aware of your ski legs and your present surroundings. As skiing is a source of enjoyment for many, it becomes natural to stick in the moment. Next time you are skiing, take notice of your breath and how you can remain present with ease. This skill can then be transferred into your “Valley Life” to make mindfulness a regular part of your life.
Success. Self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, can directly impact one’s mental health. Improving how you see yourself and what you feel you can accomplish can reduce your risk toward developing a mental health problem. When it comes to skiing, it can be a fulfilling sport. Bringing on the feel good vibes. Progressing up in run difficulty can provide an immediate sense of accomplishment. Even bad ski days can quickly turn around when you make a second go at it. The beauty of the ski hill is that no two days are alike & there is always an opportunity to boost your skill level, no matter how good of a skier you are.
Brain Boost. I am sure that you have experienced the mood changing effects of working up a good sweat at the gym after having had a bad day at the office. Or even felt post workout bliss. All of these feelings come down to a rush of endorphins - chemicals released from the brain to reduce discomfort, activate opioid receptors and bring on general well being and euphoria. These chemicals are involved in our natural reward circuits getting us to repeat activities without much thought. Downhill skiing brings on this chemical rush. Skiers chase the endorphin and adrenalin rush. Getting us up at the crack of dawn. Out in inclement weather. The beauty is that the after effect of a good ski day is these endorphins will elevate your mood. Research has shown that exercise is effective at treating mild to moderate depression likely through these endorphin pathways.
Sharing. Apres ski. Laughs about the best run of the day. Encouraging a friend to ski a hidden treasure with you. The social aspect to skiing is a laid-back pressure free environment. Being surrounded by others who are doing something they love rubs off in a good way. Keeping it social will stave off depression. And don’t forget that ear to ear grin at the end of a powder day can keep you going well into hump day.
Awe Inspiring. Being outside amongst the elements. The ski hill is different every day. Better yet, get out for the first or last chair lift to see some of the mountain’s beauty. And if you are lucky to ski a run all to yourself, take a moment to feel the stillness of the mountain.
This winter take the time to notice the mood enhancing effects of being outside in the snow sharing a beautiful view with friends.
Article written in Apex Matters January Edition. More articles from this edition can be found here.
The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. "Benefits of outdoor exercise confirmed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2011.