We’re at the time of year that’s abuzz with activity … most of it indoors. Between shopping in crowded malls, attending functions, and baking, decorating, and wrapping at home, many families find fresh air and sunlight hard to come by during the holiday season.

But many health and wellness experts tell us that outdoor activity is just what we need this time of year. Cloudy days and colder temperatures leave us at a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that tends to occur during winter months, and spending time outdoors can help ease the symptoms. The holidays can also be a stressful time for parents and kids alike, and outdoor activity is a natural stress-reliever.

And of course, let’s not forget that staying active helps burn off those extra calories from Christmas cookies and eggnog!

Fortunately, here in southeast Texas, our mild winter weather (last week’s snow notwithstanding!) is outdoor-activity friendly. Here are five activities to share with families in your community to encourage more “together time” in the great outdoors this December:

  • Caroling: Get a group of parents and kids together and roam the neighborhood singing holiday carols. It’s a great way to get to know other families in the community, and singing also releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin.
  • Winter Family Walks: Even if it’s a little nippy outside, the whole family can still enjoy an afternoon or evening walk. Just remember to bundle up appropriately, and enjoy a round of steamy cocoa when you return.
  • Take a (Nature) Hike: Head to one of our wonderful local nature centers — like the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center or Brazos Bend State Park — and learn about nature while you enjoy the fresh air.
  • Picnicking: Neighborhood preschool playground equipment, community parks, and church common areas are perfect locations for family picnics, even when there’s a chill in the air. Remember to dress appropriately, and be sure to bring along a thermal container filled with your hot beverage of choice.
  • Outdoor Family Games: Outdoor games like horseshoes and ring toss aren’t just for the summertime. Tote your equipment to your neighborhood park, and invite other families to join in the fun.

Happy holidays to all!