The pitter-patter of rain on the window has announced the final sweeping bow of Summer. The early nights and the darkening skies are closing in.
In the cosy confines of your home, wrapped up in blankets on the couch- the cold outside is a lurking beast. The thought of leaving the haven of your cocoon, even for a second is like a gust of wind, leaving chills down your spine. Autumn and winter have this strange effect on the human psyche. Maybe it’s a hearkening back to our forebears days. When winter was a dangerous time and the fear of the cold and howling of the wolves was a matter of grim survival. However, there is no such excuse for us today. Instead of hunching down into the goose down and hibernating like a bear for the winter, use this as an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the delights of the season.
1) Cold is Good for You
Cold actually burns calories. This works by stimulating the metabolically active brown fat in our system. Added to this, the temperature drop can help reduce inflammation in joints and bones. Something which can seem the antithesis of this, as cold can cause a flare up in cold achy joints. But when you think about it, the cold is actually invigorating. It causes you to move more and take deeper breaths. Your blood vessels dilate and help to move blood more efficiently. While simultaneously stimulating your body to warm itself.
How great do you feel after you’ve rolled out of bed in a freezing cold morning, and forced yourself to go for a run? Initially, sure, it’s a bit of a drag and you may be cursing to begin with. But that quickly dissipates as the beauty of the morning hits and you begin to warm up and your muscles loosen. There is nothing quite like a steaming run in the brittle morning sunlight on a winter’s day.
Is this your worst nightmare? Then why not make your winter foray a little less exercise driven. Autumn in the Barossa Valley is a riot of colour and breathtaking vistas. Get a group of friends together for a weekend jolley. Wine isn’t just for hazy summer days- it’s actually amazing to go on a tour this time of year. You get rugged up, and head to gorgeous wineries that will take your breath away with their winter finery. A glass of classic South Australian Shiraz in front of a crackling fire with an oozing plate of cheese amongst friends? It is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Check out Peter Lehman or Chateau Tanunda, and on the way home stop by Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop for some delicious treats for later. What's not to love? You get the benefit of having been out in the cold, seen some breathtaking scenery and socialised with friends amongst some of South Australia’s finest. Win-win.
2) Nature is a Healer
In our digitally obsessed world, sometimes it transpires that it has been months since we have escaped the hard slog to hit out into nature. If you live in South Australia this is basically a travesty. We have an incredibly diverse array of naturally beautiful wilderness.
Right on our doorstep.
Desert, forest, bush, beaches, mountains, seas: whatever your taste, South Australia caters to it. Except for tropical rainforests, those we don’t do.
There is just something about getting outside. Being surrounded by nature fills your soul with some dynamic, otherly force. It can make you feel like that office desk is so far away, it could be on another planet. This escape is utterly necessary for our mental health. Which in turn can affect our overall wellbeing.
It’s easy to head out to our wonderful beaches in the summer, but don’t forget that winter time is incredible. The colours, sights and smells are somehow so much more visceral, fresher. So do yourself a favour, and get outside. Even if it is just a day trip, though preferably a weekend escape. Think Flinders Ranges, the Heysen Trail, Kangaroo Island, Yorke Peninsula. Why not make a pilgrimage to the Corny Point Lighthouse and raise a tent on the cliffs overlooking the bay. Its rugged isolation and sheer beauty is a sure fire way to reinvigorate your jaded city senses.
The fire ban is off and you can cuddle up to a blaze with just you and your pals, gazing up at the incredible Milky Way pulsating above you.
There is nothing that will fill your body or senses with delight more than the unbridled night sky. As an added bonus, there are no mosquitos or flies to be found in the winter. So if you hate camping due to creepy crawlies then this is the right season for you. If the idea of camping traumatises you, book yourself a cabin or a cottage in the foothills. Grab some friends, stock up on the mulled wine and snacks and have an incredible night under the stars. Laughing, dancing and celebrating the chill.
If you want to do something a bit more rugged, autumn and winter is a great season for hiking. As an added bonus, South Australia has some outstanding trails. The Mt Lofty and Morialta climb are gorgeous this time of year. In particular, Mt Lofty is very easily accessible. Its cascading waterfalls, with a flush of growth so intensely green for our dry state, can make you feel transported to some mythical fairy aisle. It’s so beautiful and the cold temperature is in your favour, unlike in the summer. The hard work of making your way up to the top of the mountain is worth the pain. That moment in which you gain the peak, and see the stunning city and bay laid before you is intense. With the added bonus of the promise of a hot chocolate or coffee in the observatory, it is the perfect short jaunt outside.
3) Vitamin Deficiency
You need extra sunlight and Vitamin D as the weather turns. We don’t hear much about SAD in Australia. This is possibly down to our usual overabundance of sunshine. However in the Southern states, we do suffer through a proper winter. Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder is now better diagnosed and therefore more prevalent. So what is it exactly? SAD is categorised as a type of depression that is related to weather and seasonal changes, almost always in the colder months. The symptoms include moodiness, general depression, eating and sleeping more and a feeling of flatness. It is a defined disorder and there has been some speculation that this is due to a lack of Vitamin D.
We get our Vitamin D from the sun and what with working 9- 5 hours inside, and dark, overcast weather, it translates that we are not getting enough exposure. Being that we are so well tutored in sun protection in Australia, we also generally wear it year round.
Which is the right thing to do, for sure.
Yet this all adds up to a severe depletion of our Vitamin D levels- which in turn can lead to SAD. What’s the solution? Go get outside! Try and get a minimum 10 - 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure every day. This will help elevate your mood and the chill outside will invigorate your office addled mind. It’s a great excuse to get up and move around, as you shouldn’t sit for a more than an hour at a time.
4) The Sports Season Begins
The winter season, which is incidentally the actual competition season, is just beginning for many sports. If this sounds like a terrible time, you may want to think again. There has been plenty of research that backs up the claim that not only are team sports physically good for you, but they are good for your mental health too. We all know the correlation between exercise and the runner’s high. But playing team sports is something extra- it’s working in a pack, as a team, revelling in the highs and the lows. We are social beasts by nature.
The social aspect of team sports is great for beating loneliness and isolation.
There is something to be said for being out in the drizzle, boiling hot and sweating, shouting out the call to your teammates as the crowd huddles in their parkas.
Endorphins baby, that’s what it is all about.
Don’t think this is limited to age either- team sports in the winter are great, no matter how many years on your clock. Aching joints and sore knees won’t stop you, it’s just a matter of taking it easy and working up to it. Make sure you always warm up and stretch, properly cool down and stretch at the end too. Have a warm bath afterwards and maybe look for a natural remedy that could help assist with the aching, as well as reduce muscle tension and joint inflammation.
Whatever you do, just get outside! Winter is not for hibernating, we are not bears. It’s such a beautiful season, it would be silly to let worries about aching joints or colds get in the way. Those nights covered in a duvet on the couch are only really made after a day out and about in the cold crisp air.
So do yourself a favour this winter and celebrate the season.
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