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How the Seasons Affect Your Health Behaviors and How to Make the Change Anyway

Many of my patients describe seasonal shifts in their health behaviors. People are more active in the warmer weather and more sedentary in the colder months. They may join a gym after New Year, but their attendance drops off before April. Many delay scheduling medical appointments during their busy months--months that are different depending on your career and stage in life.


For many people, the seasons affect their health behaviors and their ease at making health behavior change. There are many reasons for this. Read on for some of the reasons that seasons may affect your health behaviors.


trees representing the four seasons of the year: one has red leaves, one has snow, one has flowers, and one is green.

How Seasons Affect Health Behavior Change


  • Weather. People tend to be more active when the weather is more pleasant. It is easier to go outside for a walk when the temperature invites you out! Even if the temperature itself does not dissuade you, going for a walk on a cold day can involve putting on extra layers, adding a step to a process, and discouraging some.

  • Daylight. As the days get longer, people have more time after work when it is still light outside. Whether you might exercise outside or at a gym, the longer daylight gives the illusion of being earlier in the day and helps you feel that it is not too late to go out.

  • Mood. With more sunlight comes an improved mood for many people. This is especially true for the many people with seasonal affective disorder. When your mood is better, it is easy to feel motivated to build habits.

  • Time. For different people, different seasons are busier than others. For some, busy season revolves around their line of work--accountants are often busy between January and April, teachers are busiest at the start of the school year, and students are busier during their college semester. Trying to start a big change during one of these times is always more challenging.


How to Make Changes Despite the Season


I think that the key to behavior change despite the season is to understand the realities of life. When you recognize that every season has its own challenges and there is no ideal time for health behavior change, you can start making changes in non-ideal circumstances. There are always creative ways to make changes in your life, how it is now. What it requires is an openness to trying new things and doing things in a different way. It takes an open mind to set appropriate, rather than perfect, goals.


We use cognitive strategies to work on shifting your mindset. Cognitive strategies help with realistic goal setting and being open to different and perhaps unusual ideas. We use practical solutions that are good enough instead of impractical solutions that might technically be more perfect. Practical ideas can help you choose nutritious foods and be physically active with your current limitations.


The work of health behavior change is hard. We have views of our lives that affect what we are willing to do and what we think we are able to do. Sometimes it takes a shift in perspective to make health behavior change despite the season. Consider these ideas, and work with a registered dietitian for a more personalized approach.

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