Living in the Andes is amazing and wonderful—the people, the landscape, the sun so close to the surface of the earth. And, believe it or not, it can get cold and rainy here, making it hard to believe you are located right on the equator! Thats the altitude for you! When my partner and I visited Ecuador this past summer, we were thrilled with the coolness Cuenca had to offer—we had just come from 100+F in Nicaragua and the humid heat with mosquitoes in Costa Rica. While we loved just about every moment of the Central American leg of the journey, Cuenca’s invigorating winter weather called to us. Or so we thought! Turns out we felt the cold much more than we anticipated, even though winter is technically only a few degrees cooler than summer here. Here are 8 strategies we’ve found to warm up:
1. Get Moving. When we are cold we want to snuggle into warm blankets and hold warm mugs of tea or in my case, coffee. It seems so counter-instinctual to get up, get dressed, and get going. Yet research suggests that exercise in any amount and just about any kind of exercise will reward us with better blood circulation, mental clarity, and mood. Try a salsa class, walk the Tomebamba & Yanuncay River paths, or show up for a zumba class held in many of the parks around Cuenca and let the endorphins & serotonin rock-in-roll!
2. Call A Friend. Having social support can make a huge difference for those of us who can use a little nudge out of hibernation and into Cuenca’s lively community. Making play dates with friends gives us something to look forward to and creates less opportunities to become sedentary. Check out the latest exhibit at the Modern Museum and discuss the art while walking around the San Sebastian neighborhood!
3. Develop Those Healthy Habits You Have Been Planning. Limiting sugar and alcohol, sleeping well, trying out Ecuador’s veggies & fruits from a street vendor, the local mercado or one of the organic markets, are all great ways to be good to your self during times when we would rather just hunker down in pj’s and old patterns of behavior.
4. Try something new and intriguing. Not only does learning something that is completely out of our experience base create new neuropathways in the brain, but also it can be a fun and creative way to help our inner worlds experience new input and updating. What part of you always wanted to learn Spanish or maybe engage in some outdoor adventure like paragliding? Sign up for a class at Yanapuma Language School or head to Paute for a Saturday morning “fly-by.” Ask your inner child what she or he has missed and give it the opportunity to try something new!
5. Go Outside. With Ecuadorians homes primarily built of stone, tile, and stucco, we will feel much colder than the actual temperature. It is almost always warmer outside than it is in the house. Plus, sunshine really does matter— it helps warm us up and aids in the production of Vitamin D, which among its other benefits, helps to prevent depression. Even though we might have some sunnier days, the sunshine can still be fleeting—be dressed and ready to get outside to take advantage of sun moments.
6. Put Down The Electronic Devices & Step away. Most of us are now so distracted by our electronic devices that we forget to look up and be part of the world around us. Hours go by without our knowing it, without getting dressed for the day, without moving our bodies, and without engagement with others. Start with something simple, maybe not answering emails until lunchtime or turning off text notifications during lunch. Limiting time on these devices will allow for more time for the rest of our lives—being in our bodies and being in relationship with everything and everyone around us.
7. Volunteer. Offering our time in service to others is a tremendous way to contribute, to be part of something larger than ourselves, and to give back to the Cuenca community. Knowing others are counting on us to show up helps us experience vitality and connection. Cuenca and the surrounding areas have many volunteer opportunities such as teaching English to children and adults, spending time at an orphanage or nursing/hospice care center, cleaning up the rivers and parks or helping out at the local animal spay/neuter clinics.
8. Practice Gratitude & Appreciation. A daily practice of remembering all that we have, all that is good and well, and all that is sacred and awe-inspiring will keep our inner heart flame glowing with warmth no matter what the season and temperature. Just ask yourself in the morning, “what am I grateful for” and keep returning to your answers during the day and remind yourself right before you go to bed. You’ll feel the difference!
How do you thrive during the colder months here in the Andes? What strategies have you found helpful to ward off the doldrums here in Cuenca?