“So how do you know so much about the animals in the forest?”

This from the mouth of an 8-year old from Arkansas who was sitting on the chairlift with me at Winter Park.  He was part of my ski school class I was teaching for that day.

“Well, I used to work as a Park Ranger during the summertime.”

“You must really like to be outside.”

I mused on this for a moment.  Amazing, how intuitive an 8-year old could be.

“I guess that’s true.  Being outside makes me happy. Even if I’m having a really bad day, if I can be outside and go skiing, or  go for hike or a bike ride,  it makes me happy.”

The little girl in our class chimed in.

“Yeah, I know what you mean.  I love riding my bike near our home.”

As bitter cold descended on the east coast the past two weeks, a lot of people around the country took ill with a classic wintertime illness — cabin fever.

It can be challenging dealing with sub-freezing temperatures and shorter days when darkness descends by 5 p.m.  There’s even a name for the psychological disorder that can accompany this — SAD.

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  SAD is a type of depression that coincides with the change in seasons.  One of my National Park Service friends who lived in Alaska told me about her quest to deal with this during Alaska’s very long and very dark winters.  She bought special lights, and planned frequent vacations to places like Mexico.

I feel fortunate that I am not affected to the point of depression, but still it can be hard to feel cooped up. I too can feel a little more despairing, a little less motivated.  Not only that, but as a writer, I encounter frequent bouts of “Writer’s Block” during the winter, where I just feel stumped to write anything meaningful.

But if I can just talk myself into getting outside, my whole mood changes.  No doubt, it takes more work and initiative.  Going skiing involves long underwear, layers, mittens, neck gaitors, etc.  Even a walk with the dogs requires donning hat, mittens and warm coat.  But as soon as I get outside, I feel better, I feel happier.

That better mood also seems to carry over to my writing.  Getting outside brings out creative thoughts and ideas, and I often find by the time I return home, I’m teeming with words that I can’t wait to get down on my computer.  I sometimes need to type notes into my iPhone during my outdoor jaunts so as not to forget them after I get home.

So next time the freezing temperatures make you lament winter, visit your closet and start bundling up.  You might be surprised by what a brisk walk, ski day or snowshoe hike might do to lighten your mood and brighten your day.