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Cool Weather Comfort: Tips for Surviving the Change of Seasons

Changes of season can be difficult on our mental and physical health. As days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, you might experience increased symptoms of depression or increased stiffness and pain in joints and soft tissue. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms and add joy to cool weather days.

1. Stay warm. Aching joints and other physical symptoms that appear or grow worse in cold months can be soothed with warmth. Layering clothing is one of the best ways to do this. Wear sweaters and other knits layered over breathable long-sleeved tops. Use scarves, gloves or mittens, and a hat when venturing outdoors. In your home, keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature (not overly warm) and allow yourself to cuddle under warm blankets while relaxing in the evening. A heating pad, heated blankets, or a hot water bottle may also come in handy.

2. Keep moving. Cool weather and short daylight hours may tempt you to become more sedentary in the fall and winter. Resist. Moderate physical activity helps enhance low moods, and getting some exercise daily also helps joints remain limber. If you are unable to get to the gym, go on a walk, or participate in other regular fitness routines, you can still benefit from gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.

3. Turn on the light. Or spend some time outdoors during daylight hours. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or other mood disorders suffer from a lack of sunlight during colder months. To mitigate this, be intentional about exposing yourself to bright light—either outdoors or inside. When the weather is accommodating, spend some time outside during daylight hours. If you are stuck inside, open the drapes during the day to let the sun shine in, or invest in brighter indoor lighting. Exposing yourself to more light throughout the day will help to improve your mood, give you an overall energy boost, and help you sleep better at night.

4. Eat right. The onset of cooler weather causes our brains to begin craving higher calorie foods. Historically, humans needed to eat more during the fall in order to create fat stores to survive long winters and the lean days of early spring. Today, we no longer experience the lean times due to advancements in agriculture, but colder weather still triggers the urge to snack. Fortunately, you can listen to your body and stay healthy (resisting weight gain) by indulging in seasonal produce—apples, squash, nuts and whole grains in autumn; citrus and even more nuts in winter.

5. Spruce Up Your Surroundings. Decorating your home for fall or winter holidays can help to boost your spirits in chilly months. If you need an extra boost of positive energy, use some of the tips here to create your own sacred space.

6. Take a warm bath. Immersing your body in a tub of warm, fragrant water can have a near magical effect on your mood and your health. I like to add a cup of scented Epsom salts to ease my joints and add to the sensory experience. You might also enjoy lighting some candles or using an essential oil diffuser while you bathe.

As the seasons change, the different weather may bring with it mental and physical health challenges. Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy fall and winter more than usual this year.

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