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Beating the winter blues

This Winter Soltice enjoy some tips and tricks on surviving and thriving long winters in Canada (and especially on the coast).

Darker mornings, darker evenings, and chilly grey days in between means winter is here. This reduced exposure to light can affect the body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm) and cause you to continue producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which lowers your mood and energy. 

As a survivor of the Winnipeg six-month winter, I resonate with the feeling of dread that comes with the cold season. Here are a few things I can personally vouch for getting me through: 

Keep active

Do something that you enjoy and is accessible to you – your chances of sticking with it will be higher. Whether that’s a home yoga routine, or trying out indoor rock climbing. Or, make a habit of getting out for a daily walk. This helps your mood by breathing in fresh air and providing a change in scenery, all while exercising.

Hatty Skinner at an indoor climbing gym where people are working out.

Add vitamin D to your diet

Food sources of vitamin D include milk, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fish. For most people, the best way is through taking a supplement because it’s hard to eat enough through food.

Try a new hobby, or pick up an old one

Hobbies are a perfect way to distract one’s self and pass the time. They provide an outlet for stress relief and often promote creativity. Personally, I love to knit warm winter garments for friends and family. 

A cat stands in front of a bright light soaking up Vitamin D.

Make your environment brighter

In winter the amount of sunlight we are exposed to is more limited. Opening the window shades can help provide an extra dose of sunlight. Using a light box-a source of artificial light- can be effective as well.

Reach out to your support network

People have a tendency to hibernate in the winter. Isolation can increase feelings of depression. Stay connected and spend time with loved ones. 

Practice Hygge

Despite a daily average of less than seven hours of sunlight during the winter, the Danes sit comfortably at the top of the UN Happiness Report. 

How? With Hygge!

Pronounced Hooguh, this Danish word translates to “coziness”. It is a feeling of togetherness, relaxation, and savoring simple pleasures. Hygge peaks during winter season, and becomes almost a survival strategy.

A few examples:

  • Sipping a cup of hot chocolate, tea, or mulled wine
  • Spending quality time with family/friends
  • Savouring a homemade cinnamon bun or traditional apple tart
  • Warm, diffuse light, such as candlelight
  • Watching a film or reading a book under a blanket 

It sounds simple – that’s the whole point. Hygge is all about the little things. 

Also, seasonal affective disorder is really a thing

The reduced light, warmth, and color of winter leaves lots of people feeling a little more melancholy or tired—and isn’t necessarily something to worry about. But if your symptoms crop up around the same time each year, have a real impact on your quality of life, and improve when the seasons change, you may have seasonal affective disorder. If you think what you are experiencing could be more than the winter blues, consider talking to your health care provider. SAD can improve with proper treatment.