Benefits of being outside during the winter months
Two years ago, I wrote my first piece for iCandy. I was 8 months pregnant, in my nesting phase and was awaiting the birth of my son, Zion. Quite frankly, I had very little expectations of motherhood but knew that my life would significantly change.
Not long after my son was born it became apparent that one of the changes was the requirement for me to be more conscious about my overall health and wellbeing as a mother. Fast forward to today, I can confidently say that I have found ways to take care of this “new” version of myself.
Very early on, I found that going for a walk once a day, with my son – no matter how short – was a must. You see, staying in doors for long periods of time would drive me crazy (or at least that’s what it felt like). Being a mother is not an easy job and it’s no surprise that after being stuck indoors for a while, my mood would dip and I would get overwhelmed by little things such as the never-ending piles of laundry.
The positive impact that being outdoors had on me and Zion led to me becoming such a huge advocate of mothers going for a daily walk. No matter how tired I am feeling, I do make an effort to pop my son in to his pushchair and get a walk in before the sun goes down. What I tried to make a habit, has now become a fixed part of my routine. As such, you’ll often find me over on Dear Black Mum running the “Daily Walk Gang” challenge.
I, more than anyone, can appreciate just how challenging it can be to get outside with a child on an average day. During winter, the challenge becomes even greater: it’s colder, it gets dark earlier, it may be raining and the motivation to get out may simply not be there.
Did you know there are significant benefits associated with being outside especially in the winter months? If I am being completely honest, it really took me becoming a mother to recognise the positive impact of being outside and I want to discuss some of these benefits with you.
Reduction of Stress Levels
Have you ever had those days where you feel stressed – just because?! It’s often an indescribable feeling that most mothers can relate to.
It has been proven that being outside for just a few minutes a day can improve both our mood and our physical health, leading to reduced stress and increased self-esteem. There are a few reasons for this, the first is that walking outside promotes the release of brain chemicals called endorphins that stimulate relaxation and improve our mood.
Second, many of us carry stress via muscle tension. The very nature of walking means that we loosen our muscles and the knots in our bodies.
Third, a change of environment from a confined one to a less restrictive one, means that your brain is more likely to focus on positive aspects, thus enabling you to feel less stressed and more relaxed.
Helps with depression
Many people suffer from "the winter blues". The medical name for this winter depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I have not been diagnosed with SAD but I have recognised that there is a link between the weather and my mood.
During the winter months, the clocks go back and the sun tends to set earlier. In turn, this means our days of sunlight are shorter and the chances of feeling low and/or depressed is higher. Being outside in natural daylight will increase serotonin – a crucial chemical needed to improve mood and decrease anxiety!
Getting outside during the winter months can help our bodies to generate Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps us regulate the amount of calcium in the body (which makes this a great benefit for the little ones too).
Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we’re outdoors so it really is worth trying to get outside at some point in the day in the winter months.
Admittedly I have never been the most active person. In fact, I was very inactive! I only moved when I had to. I have noticed that since adding daily walks to my routine my stamina has increased and I think it’s fair to say that walking is often overlooked as a form of exercise. I can now walk for a fair while without feeling out of breath and I actually return home feeling energised, rather than tired.
Reason to meet up with other mums
Being a mum can sometimes feel lonely and meeting up with other mums and going for a walk together is refreshing and free!
I have found that on the days where I am feeling overwhelmed, simply messaging a fellow mum friend “hey, do you fancy a walk with the babies at some point today” has been a game changer.
The little ones can benefit too
Yes you read this right, the babies can benefit from this too. I noticed that Zion really loved looking at the trees and the big red buses – half way through the walk he’d be down for a nap which was perfect! It’s been proven that exposure to the sun leads to the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. In addition, more time spent in the natural light helps regulate circadian rhythms (a.k.a the sleep-wake cycle) – woohoo!
I’ve been using the iCandy Core to go on my daily walks – keep your eyes peeled on the DearBlackMum and iCandy Instagram pages because you could be using one too.