Gundersen mental wellness expert talks benefits of fresh air during winter months – News8000.com – WKBT

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ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – The cold weather is often a barrier that blocks us from getting essential fresh air. Experts say getting outside is good not only for your physical health but also your mental health.
The winter months might have you feeling a little blue, but mental health experts at Gundersen Health System say a simple remedy involves tying your shoes and taking a walk outside.
“Getting outdoors any time of the year is important,” said Christie Harris, a wellness education specialist at Gundersen.
Something so common and essential exists all around us, but we often forget it can help.
“We need the vitamin D, which we greatly miss here in the Midwest during the winter months,” Harris said. “It has a great impact on our overall mental health.”
Days when the sun shines are great for the body and the mind, Harris said.
“It’s just nice to feel like you’re not stuck inside,” she said.
It’s common to feel the effects of the winter season. It has a name: seasonal affective disorder, which includes fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal.
Those are things the pandemic only amplified for many people. However, Harris said the pandemic also created new conversations about mental health.
“How much relationships are really important to us and how much we need to nurture those relationships,” Harris said.
Important discussions and a reminder of the value of mental wellness.
“You’re never in this alone,” Harris said.
Even those of us doing okay can make a difference for someone we know.
“Sometimes some of the people that we think are doing the best in life, may be having some things internally that they’re just not sharing,” Harris said.
Time spent outdoors can exercise your mind, Harris said.
“If you can find a friend that you can go walking with,” she said.
“We are very, very fortunate to be in this area. Any little chance that you can get out and you can get some of that fresh air and you can get that natural light is great.”
Anyone who needs more help along the way should ask for it.
“That doesn’t make us weak,” she said. “That doesn’t make us vulnerable  — that makes us human.”
Often the best medicine can be found right outside our door. We can harness that need with the prescription of placing one foot in front of the other.
“We just need to take care of ourselves and our mental health is just as important as our overall physical health,” Harris said.
People can buy artificial light therapy products. Experts at Gundersen say those who plan to do that should speak to their medical provider first.
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