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Skiing, Natural Light a Key to Winter Happiness?

By Annie Hauser
Published: December 4, 2013

Thinkstock/Jupiterimages

Taking a ski trip this winter can enhance your overall happiness, researchers from the Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea report in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, after surveying nearly 300 visitors at three major South Korean ski resorts.

It's because participating in a sport gives people a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. "Being deeply involved in an enjoyable physical activity can enhance a person's positive outlook on life," according to a Springer press release

(MORE: Which State is the Saddest?)

Researchers added that just one ski trip could have this positive effect on individuals. The more individuals were engaged in skiing, and the more often they skied, the happier they were reported to be. Interestingly, skiers found their experiences more pleasurable than snowboarders did.

If snow sports aren’t in the cards for you this winter, you can still get a natural mood boost by just spending time outside, whether through camping, other sports or even just walking, previous studies have found.

One 2010 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology went so far as to say that spending just 20 minutes in nature a day can make people feel more alive and boost vitality levels. 

"Nature is fuel for the soul, " Richard Ryan, the lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a press release. "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”

Harvard University researchers found that spending time outside can boost your focus, after a study of children with ADHD. In one study, people recovering from spinal surgery healed faster when they were regularly exposed to natural light.

(MORE: The Happiest Countries on Earth)

Making a point to get regular outdoor light exposure this winter can help you combat the winter blues, too, Michael Terman, Ph.D., the author of the new book Reset Your Inner Clock and a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told weather.com earlier this year.

Morning light helps stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and wake up the inner clock, he said. "Light therapy works quickly for most people," he said. "Within several days or a week the sluggishness or depression of winter is greatly reduced." Reducing these symptoms will keep the winter blues at bay, he added.

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