Working Toward Winter Happiness: Week Two

It’s the second week of my actively taking friends advice as to how to work to stay in a good mood as winter approaches. Along the way I’ve been setting objectives and measuring my performance against them. How did I do this week? Let’s see.

Objectives One and Two – Get Outdoors and Dress Warmly:

This week I did much better in this respect than last week. I feel I managed to dress comfortably 100% of the time. And I also got out of the house every day this week.

My Sunday trip also gave me some interesting insight I didn’t expect. In addition to a bit of grocery shopping and fetching coffee, Sage and I made a stop at the reference library where I was able to borrow a CO2 monitor for a week through their loan program.

A friend had mentioned she had bought a CO2 monitor to use to gauge ventilation in public places as a partial indicator of COVID safety. Poorly ventilated places may present more risk while places getting lots of fresh air are less likely to have a high airborne viral load. Since we exhale CO2, a good measure of fresh air content is CO2 level. Outside the levels are around 450 ppm give or take a bit. Above 1,000 is poorly ventilated and above 5,000 is actually a harmful level. Of course there are other factors at play when it comes to infectious diseases – number of actually infected people, airflow, proximity and so on. What I noticed, though, was that there was surprisingly good ventilation in most places. Buses, which I thought would be terrible were actually quite good, owing in great part, I’m sure, to the fact that the doors frequently open. This doesn’t mean it’s particularly safe if there are sick people nearby but it is not the infection chamber I originally thought – particularly when wearing a good mask.

But one of the worst places for CO2 levels turned out to be my home office – sometimes 1000-1200 ppm. Now I’m not worried about infecting myself, obviously. However, I did a bit more reading about CO2 levels – after all, people were measuring this long before the pandemic. HVAC design guides say that fresh air intake should keep CO2 levels well below 1000 ppm. Higher levels can cause tiredness and sometimes headaches. So I’ve hardly been using this monitor outside the house. Instead I’ve had it next to my desk and if it’s above 800 I crack open a window or two. And whether it’s placebo or not I found something fascinating: My energy levels were much improved. Even with some days with less than 6.5 hours of sleep I didn’t have post-lunch sleepiness. I also noticed my mood had improved quite a bit – enough so that I searched online to see if this was something others have noticed and some are already publishing studies on this – mostly related to anxiety and at least for people with anxiety disorders, there seems to be a correlation. (I don’t fit the profile but surely more fresh air is only a good thing). So while I don’t think I’ll get a CO2 monitor for use in restaurants and public transit, I will definitely take away the need to open a window and keep the air fresh in the winter.

Score: Objective 1 and 2: 7/7 days out = 100%

Objective Three: Resume Running:

Well this one started off inauspiciously. Saturday night I put on my headlamp and headed into the ravine just after dark for a run. Less than 100 metres after I started running on the trail, my toe hit a small root and that was enough to knock me off balance. I fell forward quickly and though my hands did break the worst of my fall, my face hit the ground and I heard a crack. My glasses had broken.

I stood back up and checked in with myself. My arms and legs were fine. My head didn’t hit anything that hard. When I reached up to see how my face was, though, I noticed the broken edge of the glasses had cut the bridge of my nose. Fortunately I had a mask with me and though I was alone in the woods, I put it on my face to keep myself from looking like a terrifying zombie.

Finding my way in the woods was a bit more difficult without glasses. When I tried to find the path I came into the woods on I couldn’t locate it. Eventually I gave up and just pushed through the dense brush until I got to the top of the hill. This didn’t work so well as I found myself in our community garden whose gate was locked. Now, walking around with a headlamp I looked like someone up to no good and climbing over the fence would look even more sketchy. I climbed back down into the woods and found a different bit of dense underbrush to push through and came up outside the fence. Getting home from here was easy though I have so much more respect for visually impaired people. Crossing the street even with a light and walk signal felt much more vulnerable.

Two days later it was time to run again and I wasn’t going to let this trail defeat me. As the foliage colour seems to be peaking now I went out a bit earlier and I was rewarded with gorgeous views:

Two days later I ran in the city. I like these runs for a different reason. With lots of mountain bikers on the trail I don’t wear earbuds when running as I want to hear them approaching to give them space. On the sidewalk I don’t worry so much about that and can listen to music. The views are different but still pretty.

View from Flemingdon Park

When I went outdoors for Friday’s run I was in for a bit of a shock. I knew the temperature had dropped a little bit but didn’t fully grasp it until I went outside. It was 8 degrees with a damp wind and I was wearing shorts and a windbreaker. I stopped for a minute deciding whether I was going to turn back. In the end this project made the decision for me. I said I would do this and I was going to do it. And besides, at 8 degrees, I might be uncomfortable, but it won’t actually be harmful to go for a run. And so I started across the bridge to Motown, one of my favourite trails. My stamina isn’t where it needs to be yet to do the whole thing like I would have done in the past, but it was still nice to get out there. My run started off with a warmup phase – a brisk five minute walk across a very exposed bridge and it was cold. About half way across a man a little older than me was out walking with who appeared to be his father. They were both in parkas and the elder of them was holding his arms and shivering. It did not bode well for a comfortable run. Still, I was rewarded with a nice view and I didn’t want to tell you I failed so I kept going.

It takes almost exactly 5 minutes to cross the bridge and I was chilled as I waited for the light to turn green so I could cross. When it finally did I started running and it was amazing. It made me think of back when I used to own a car and on a cold day it would take some time for the heater to work while the engine warmed. The same was true for me – within one minute the engine was warm and not only were my torso and arms warm, my icy fingers also started warming. It was amazing! I turned on to the trail and headed into the woods just as the sun was starting to set.

Objective 3: 3/3 days running= 100%

Objective 4: Cycling:

Though I had the best of intentions, I only got out one day this week. I did have a lovely ride, though, doing about 15 kilometres, some on single-track trail, some on pavement including one of my favourite hills where I got up to a top speed of 68.5 km/hr (43 mph). I had intended to video it but forgot my SD card. I did livestream it to Facebook but the video quality was very poor due to poor signal in the ravine so it wasn’t really salvagable.

Objective 4: 1/2 days cycling = 50%

Objective One: 100% = 25 points
Objective Two: 10% = 25 Points
Objective Three: 100% = 25 Points
Objective 4: 50% = 12.5 Points
Total: 87.5%

This is an excellent improvement over last week with my only mistake being to not ride when I should have. Next time!

So how did my rating look for my mood for the week:

Mood Rating: 73.9% (based on average daily rating of my day’s mood on 1-10 scale)

A little lower than last week. I did have three nights where my sleep wasn’t great. Once was due to Sage accidentally setting an alarm for 2AM not 2PM (oops!). Once due to getting to sleep too late and once due to not eating a decent dinner and waking up hungry at 2:30. So to that end for next week there are two more objectives:

Objective 5: In bed by 10:15 – with a metric of hours of sleep. Target is a minimum of 6.5.

Objective 6: Good eating habits. I know what works for me. Three meals, two snacks, Enough rice/grains to keep me fueled for running/cycling, a bit of protein/fat and lots and lots of veggies. When I eat this way my mood is noticeably better. Some challenges I face here: skipping healthy snacks make me extra hungry and as a result I eat more at the meal, or grab something unhealthy instead because it’s fast and easy. The other challenge is when I make something particularly delicious. Last night, for example, I made chole (chickpea curry) and it was delicious. After a bowl of salad, chole and rice I was done but I could have happily eaten another full bowl, not because I was hungry but because it was tasty. The metric for this is a scale of 1-3 I’m using to track the day’s eating performance. 3 is the best – totally eating healthily in a way that makes me feel good. 2 means I mostly ate OK but skipped eating veggies with a meal or made a poor snack choice and 1 means I didn’t pay attention at all to eating properly and ate lots of things that were not good for me. I should note here that this is not about shaming myself or holding myself to an aspirational standard for what foods I should be eating but making mindful choices when serving my food, knowing what I was eating was going to make my body and mind feel good. With no exceptions that I can think of there’s never a point where I make a poor choice accidentally. It literally is knowing full well I don’t need that third helping of chole but there’s only a little left and it’s so good. (And then waking up at 2:30 AM due to indigestion which I knew was coming when I filled my bowl)

Just for information only, while yesterday was really good, the week’s average was 1.85/3 or 61.6% of where I want to be

Objective 7: Learning

This is still a work in progress. I have at least a couple of cooking class possibilities to organize, and hope to organize an online drop-in for Hindi Improv. A few other options are in the works. If you’re interested in being a part of any of these, let me know!

2 thoughts on “Working Toward Winter Happiness: Week Two

  1. Thank God you did not hurt yourself too much. The trees look so beautiful. Here the leaves do not change colours, so I love looking at trees from your place , UK and other places.

    1. Yes I thought the same thing. We’re really lucky in that before the leaves fall and the grey winter starts we have a few weeks of this. It was incredibly beautiful last weekend and I have a bit of video to edit and share. There were so many people out enjoying it.

      Today it is cooler and rainy and it’s meant to rain for a few days. This is usually what happens at this point: We have beautiful colours and then bad weather comes. When it’s over the leaves are all on the ground and winter is soon to follow.

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