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The science behind why snowy weather is good for your mental health

Winter can be a rough time for mental health, but that’s all the more reason to try to get outside.

The science behind why snowy weather is good for your mental health
[Source images: guille pozzi/Unsplash; mattia /Videvo]

During the busy period at the beginning of a new year, stress can feel everywhere. But you can resist the hustle and the overwhelm of the new year in a surprising way: Embracing snow. By finding snowy destinations for a quick getaway or even as a venue for your remote work, you can improve your mental health by tapping into mindfulness and finding ways to get active in colder climates. And fortunately, the winter season is an ideal time to embrace snow. If you’re unsure where to find snow

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Spending time in a snowy location in the middle of a woods and taking time to partake in snow sports may be perfectly timed. Snowy weather has unique positive effects on your health, energy, and happiness.

The positive effects of snow

Snow has some terrific positive effects that are unique to the cold white stuff and the experiences they provide.

  • The sound of silence. Chances are, you’ve experienced the overwhelming quiet when you step out into a freshly snow-covered landscape. It’s not your imagination. In fact, research by the University of Kentucky studied the acoustic properties of snow and found it absorbs up to 60% of sound—so the feeling of serenity and calm that comes from snowy environments is real—driven by so much quiet. But just as they tamp down background noises, snowy days can also amplify nature sounds like the crack of a tree in the nearby woods or birdsong. This too is relaxing. According to a study by University of Sussex, when people hear sounds of nature they experience more activity in the parts of their brain responsible for rest and relaxation. And these are most pronounced for people who are most stressed out.
  • The stimulation of activity. In addition to its calm influences, snow is also associated with happiness because of the activity it drives. It is true that exercise drives happiness, but snow sports, in particular, have positive effects. A study by Yonsei University found when people snowboarded or skied, they reported greater pleasure, engagement and satisfaction.
  • The vitality of the outdoors. Seeking a snowy environment can also help you feel more alive. According to research coming from the University of Rochester, when people spent more time in nature they felt greater vitality and improved resilience and physical health. Even 20 minutes per day in nature helped them to feel more energized and more positive.
  • The diversity of destinations. Finding snowy venues may also contribute to your happiness and mental health because if offers diversity of experience. New York University researchers found when people had a greater variety of activities and experiences they were in better moods and felt happier.

Overall, nature is correlated with happiness and positivity. Researchers at the National University of Singapore analyzed 31,500 photos across 185 countries, which were uploaded to social media, and those reflecting nature significantly correlated with joy. So it’s smart to find natural environments where you can get out there—and enjoy the snow.

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Where to find snowfall

If finding some snow, hitting the slopes, or just enjoying a frozen landscape are proven ways to relax and reboot for the new year, where can you find them? Here are your best bets based on a November study by Amerisleep.

Perhaps surprisingly, the greatest snowfall is predicted for Vermont (89 inches), Maine (77 inches) and New Hampshire (71 inches). While you may have expected Colorado, Alaska or Michigan to top the lists, they don’t make the top three, instead they rank at numbers four, five and six respectively (Colorado is expected to have 67 inches of snow, Alaska, 64 inches and Michigan, 60 inches).

If you love the southeast, your best bet for snowfall is West Virginia with 25 inches expected. Or if you’re a fan of the southwest, you can aim for New Mexico which will likely receive 22 inches of snow.

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Further, it will come as no surprise, your worst bets for finding snow are Hawaii or Florida. Each of them is expecting only .01 inches of snowfall. But hey, you could get some snorkeling, surfing or sunbathing in those climates—and probably gain many of the benefits of snow in liquid form and from the beauty of tropical nature.

Despite the pressure to start the year with hurry, rush or urgency, strive for calm and serenity (which can achieve by surrounding yourself with snow). Embrace the colder months by actively telling yourself to take in the winter’s snowy (and rejuvenating) atmosphere. And if you’re considering taking time off or rearranging your work set-up—take a cold-weather vacation or work somewhere in your home office where snow is viewable.


Tracy Brower, PhD, is a sociologist focused on work-life, happiness, and fulfillment. She works for Steelcase, and is the author of two books, The Secrets to Happiness at Work and Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work.

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