MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities could dip back into the single digits later this week, which makes it pretty easy to just hunker down inside.

But is it unhealthy to stay inside all day? Good Question.

“It doesn’t have to be,” says Dr. Matt Syzdek, a clinical psychologist with Hennepin Healthcare.

He says people should consider their mood as a gauge that tells you how they’re doing in the day.

“If it’s reading low, it’s not working,” he says. “That should be your sign to say what I’m doing right now is not working.”

Research has shown a lack of sunlight can affect circadian rhythms, which can have negative impacts on sleep patterns. It can affect a person’s hormones when they don’t have a chance to see the sun.

“Your serotonin and dopamine levels get affected by not being outside and that affects depression,” says Dr. Deepti Pandita, an internal medicine physician at Hennepin Healthcare.

She says each person’s threshold for cabin fever is different – ranging from a day to weeks. Both doctors recommend finding creative outlets for being active inside — like having a friend over, accomplishing chores or doing activities with family.

According to one study from the University of Rochester, being outside in nature for just 20 minutes a day can boost energy levels.

“It’s not just the environment,” says Dr. Pandita. “It’s also the interactions when you’re around people, that’s somehow more uplifting than when you’re isolated.”

Both doctors point to exercise as good way to fight cabin fever. But, if it’s negative 30 outside, exercising inside, sitting by a window or visiting an indoor green space will also help.

Heather Brown

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