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It might seem that winter weather and wellness don't go hand in hand, but you'd be surprised…!

It’s that time of year in the western world. Short, bitterly cold days, often with little (or no!) sign of the sun and endless, dark, forbidding nights. Better to cuddle up on the sofa by the fire with a warm cup of cocoa, a good film and your smartphone or tablet. We have everything we need inside – we can reach our friends at the touch of a button and cheer ourselves up with anything we like from the internet. Not to mention the snack cupboard being close to hand; gotta keep energy levels up, for warmth, right?!

Technology has beckoned us inside, where we stay for more of the day than we may realize. The Harvard School of Public Health recently suggested adults spend 95% of their day indoors! But staying inside, out of the elements only meets our very immediate needs. Of course, a little rest away from the hectic outside world is great for the body and mind, but too much time tucked away means we’re also running the risk of changing our habits to be more insular, inside-oriented and sedentary. Not good for the mind or the middle!

Change your plans Summer is so often considered prime vacation season, but research suggests that winter travel might actually be better for your wellbeing. Many of us recognize the onset of various issues during winter, so we’ve identified the most common ones and given you the tools to beat them off using the Great Outdoors as your main weapon.

Learn how to fight off depression before it worsens. Jump-start your metabolism and feel more energized, happier, less hungry and better able to sleep at night. As with most things, there’s no cure, no trick that suddenly makes you well. Wellness is a journey and, most likely, it’s the most rewarding trek you can travel. Feeling tired, low and bored? Why wait til the weather’s good to go? Go now! Getting away and into the outdoors during the winter could set you on the path to feeling good and looking great all year round. Boosting your vitamin D, reconnecting with nature, traveling with buddies and enjoying life’s comforts are just a few reasons to pack up and head out this winter!

Winter Wellness Worry #1 – tiredness It always seems to be dark in the winter, right? Getting up in the dark makes you feel like you’ve had no sleep, bad weather makes you want to stay in to keep warm, which leads to comfort eating and sluggishness. Over-exposure to devices and long hours in front of the TV drain our brains of energy.

Solution: Opt outside! Let’s make it simple. It’s your choice and yours alone. You get to choose! So choose life! Every time we stay inside to watch our favorite show or sit in the canteen, we’re choosing not go outside and take a quick walk, which gets the blood pumping and the brain kick-started. Pop out for a quick stomp in your lunch hour and make the most of the daylight! The fresh air will trigger alertness and noticing nature will stimulate your happy hormones. Sitting on our butts flicking mindlessly through social media means we’ve chosen not to head outdoors and meet friends for real adventures, whether it’s to the local park, getting involved in a sporting activity or hitting the nearest zipline! Anything that gets even a little adrenaline pumping will perk you up in no time.

We have a choice in how we spend our free time. It’s ok to choose to be inside, but we should be mindful that we have a choice, just an extra few minutes in the outdoors here and there will make a difference to your productivity, mood, self esteem and outlook on life.

Winter Wellness Worry #2 – apathy and S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) S.A.D. is attributed to a lack of sunlight, but many people who believe they have it may just have the winter blues due to a change in routine and a less active lifestyle. Let’s face it, it IS an effort in the winter, right? Getting our hats, scarves and coats on, tying laces, travelling through bad weather to get to where we want to go… it can all feel like too much to be bothered with.

Solution: Be proud of yourself for the little things and notice the rewards! When we achieve the seemingly hard things in winter, like getting out of a warm cozy bed in the dark, or heading outside in to the wind and rain, we should be proud we made the effort, because it’s all too easy to let time drift by in front of the TV or mindlessly trawl through our buddies’ timelines.

But efforts are rewarded! Spending an hour or two in the elements makes time curled up in bed or on the couch that little bit sweeter. That amazing feeling when you peel off cold, wet clothes or shoes and jump into a warm bubble-scented bath, or you’ve hiked through the wind and wild, and come home to a huge, hearty, home-cooked meal… Not to mention seeing your healthy glowing cheeks in the mirror and feeling that rush of fresh, cold air hit your lungs; this all makes you feel totally alive!

Winter Wellness Worry #3 – weight gain We’ve celebrated Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day, and are feeling tired, overweight and sluggish. Being bombarded with advice on diet and exercise is making us resist even more – where to start? We know we should go for a run, or even just a walk, but it’s too cold and miserable to go outside! And getting to the gym is impossible in this snow…

Solution: Play in the snow, like a kid! Look at the joy the kids find in seeing that fresh dump of powder. Even if it’s just a sprinkle, they burst with energy, and spend hours playing and building. Forget that miserable snow-blocked drive to the gym and get involved with what’s right outside your door. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself, make snow angels – that’ll get those lazy arms and legs stretching! A snowball fight will have you striding through the drifts, getting you breathless and burning those cals. You’ve got to go up to go down when sledding or skiing, and there’s no doubt all that hill walking will melt that body fat.

And there are so many new ways to play in the snow! Head away for the weekend and try fat biking and ‘snowga’, hockey, Snow Cat tours, sleigh rides, ice fishing, snowshoeing and horseback riding and more. These are all SO much more fun than the gym anyway, plus, unlike taking a beach break, you don’t have to get into your swimsuit!

Winter Wellness Worry #4 ¬– F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) Everyone seems to be having an amazing life, full of adventures and exciting things – how do they afford it? Where do they get the time? Social media can make us feel worried, inadequate and make us yearn for newness and ‘something more’ or ‘better’, especially during the winter when the holiday season ramps up prices, and we just feel too busy to be able to ‘get away’ physically and mentally, even though we want to.

Solution: Take a three-day break back to nature. Psychologist David Strayer studied the effects of nature on the psyche and found that: “When we slow down, stop the busy work and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves, too.”

And there are plenty of places that cater for such desires: stunning, luxurious ranches, like the award-winning Ranch at Rock Creek, are the heralded travel trend for 2016 – many dude ranches, guest ranches and working ranches offer wellness weekends, retreats, beautiful spas and, of course, abundant adventures in the wilds. Although The Ranch at Rock Creek recommends ranch vacations are best enjoyed over a week or so (because of all the activities on offer), research has shown that just three days in the wild outdoors can improve mental wellness for months following the trip. Some doctors are even writing prescriptions for free entry into state and national parks for patients that need a boost from nature! And it’s amazing how much you can squeeze into a long weekend!

For last-minute winter getaways to boost your winter wellness, and to have a go at all these fantastic winter activities and more, check out The Ranch at Rock Creek – they have everything you’ll need for that mid-winter wellness boost! Visit

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