Author | Photos Mwangi Gatheca

8 Ways To Feel Healthier During Winter in Toronto

In the winter, things start to feel vaguely hard and inaccessible. Everyday inconveniences feel like insurmountable blocks. The streetcar at rush hour feels like a death sentence. A couple of sleepless nights are an impossible case of insomnia. An empty fridge is a huge basket of adulting shame. It all amounts to a lingering feeling of dread that I carry around like a restless purse dog trying to keep still, and I don’t realize it’s happening until I’m full-on panicking.

That’s what my version of winter blues looks like. Coming up on what will be my thirtieth winter, I understand that I am susceptible to the murky gloom that casts itself over the city in the months after Christmas. I can’t stop it, but I can manage it. And I can do it successfully. For me, it’s all about building an atmosphere around myself (physically, and mentally) in which I feel supported. These are some things I need to keep in mind to feel healthier in the winter:

1. Take some damn time off. If I leave the city or get out of my daily routine for a little while, I can reflect and get self-aware again. Only from that place do I really know that breaks are important for sustained work performance. Mom Oprah said it, peeps: time off IS the secret to increased productivity. Continuous time on-task sets off strain responses–stress and anxiety, which drain our focus and resources. Our culture is obsessed with busyness. I don’t have to be.

2. Embracing change reawakens the senses. When things feel too routine, I can start to feel like a machine plodding along to a point where I can get head-smashingly numb. Adding some element of sensuality to my life creates some change for the better. Rearranging my apartment conjures a sense of newness. Buying a new plant adds a new dimension to my space. It’s small, but something like that is a really healthy mini-investment.

3. Allotting money specifically for wellbeing makes life feel easier. Having a budget for self-care is so key. Not a lot, just a small amount of disposable income. It’s not generally easy for me to spend money on myself but at the end of the day, I need to remember that it’s having things I value that make me feel like I have enough money! And that is the feeling I ultimately want. Just being able to buy stuff like, a better brand of cereal. A massage. A book I want on my shelf. A Chai latte if I want one.

4. Doing PROJECTS = feeling a sense of purpose. I LOVE projects. Solo projects or collaborative projects. I love planning them, doing them, finishing them and feeling SO accomplished about it. Taking on a challenge and conquering it feels awesome. Your version of a project may be more of a mission–like, going to some place you’ve been wanting to and planning, preparing and missioning out. Whatever brings you a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

5. Imbibing art is magic. Watching a Fellini film reminds me that life can be beautiful, even in its sadness, and we have the power, as humans, to make stuff from it. Being at the AGO or some gallery takes me out of my head and reminds me that I’m not the centre of the universe–I’m a tiny part of it. Listening to Edith Piaf makes me want to dress up like a queen and become a legend. Art is basically magic.   

6. Herbal refreshments really DO make a difference. (I’m talking about vitamins–LOL). Magnesium and Vitamin D and B12 are my go-to winter vitamins. Veeva is a natural stress formula I love and would recommend. Obviously there is a time and place talk to your GP about any of the issues you’re experiencing and want to change. It’s all about finding what works for you, and it is a journey worth taking.

7. Motion is lotion. It’s been my goal to move every day this winter. Even if it’s YouTube yoga or random stretching for fifteen minutes. That’s totally helpful.

8. Get good footwear. No matter how many crafts you’re making or how full of cash your wellbeing bucket is, if you have wet feet, life sucks. Buy waterproof boots and warm socks (multiple pairs, you must have). You will thank yourself for doing this maybe the most.

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