8 Tips For Beating the Bad-Weather Winter Blues

They say that November is the cruelest month but I’m putting in my vote for January as a close second. All across Canada and the United States, a harsh and gloomy winter is upon us. Ontarians have been experiencing an unseasonably mild winter suffering pelting rains that have flooded many an unsuspecting basement, while British Columbia and Newfoundland are having record-breaking snowfalls. In Florida, frozen iguanas are falling out of trees.

So how can a person survive the long, hard winter? I can think of 8 tips for getting through the season with your health and your sanity intact:

2. Deal with your feelings: If you’ve got the winter blues, you might want to talk to someone about what you’re going through. You might need to use a light box if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. You might need medication for depression. There’s no shame in having a mental health condition, and the sooner you deal with it the sooner you’ll start to feel better.

3. Come together as a community: In Newfoundland after the recent massive dump of snow, everyone has been helping each-other out doing anything from sharing food, shoveling out driveways, and visiting the elderly. They’re a role model to the rest of us for cooperation and kindness.

4. Help the critters: Here in Toronto, I’ve put up shelters in my yard for the feral cats that have a hard time getting through the coldest months of the year. I also put out food every day for the cats and the birds, and the food is shared by all the other wildlife living nearby, including bunnies, opossums, squirrels and skunks, and rumors of the odd fox. It feels good to do good.

5. Think globally: Australia is on fire. China is under coronavirus lockdown. Iranians across the globe are mourning their losses from the recent Ukraine flight 752 disaster. While you’re grumbling about your crummy local weather patterns, consider helping out these communities through volunteering or donating to charity. As bad as you’ve got it, someone else might have it worse.

6. Enjoy what you’ve got: After the huge dump in Newfoundland, people posted pictures of kids snowboarding down the streets of St. John’s. Like these kids, you can take advantage of your local weather. If it’s mild out, you can enjoy going for a brisk walk. If it’s been snowy, try going tobogganing or hitting the ski slopes. Fresh air and exercise will improve your mood, regardless of what rotten weather you’ve been dealing with.

7. Cuddle up at home: If you can’t get out because of the inclement weather, this is a great time to hang out with your loved ones. You could cook meals together, play board games or have some heartfelt conversations; maybe you could get romantic. Statistics show that nine months after a massive storm like the one Newfoundland just had, there’s always an equally impressive surge of babies being born.

8. Write your great Canadian novel/screenplay/memoir: When you’re stuck at home because of terrible weather, it might be the perfect time to sit down at the keyboard and finally commit to the brilliant piece of writing you’ve been promising yourself you’d get to. Being creative is hard and a lot of people avoid it for as long as they can. In crappy weather, though, you have the perfect opportunity to finally face down your demons and see what kind of masterpiece you can come up with.

For many of us in North America, winter is a brutal inevitability, but you don’t have to just sit there and take it. If you follow the eight tips I’ve laid out here, you might just find that January becomes your favorite month of the year.

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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series