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Winter Wellness

YWCA Toronto
YWCA Toronto
January 15, 2024
Categories: Wellness 

The start of a new year can feel like a fresh start for many, a time to set resolutions and intentions for the year, but after a few weeks that mindset can start to shift as the luster of the holidays wear off, the coldness of winter continues, and we face some of the shortest days of sunlight of the year.

The lack of natural sunlight during the winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD affects 3 to 5 percent of Canadians, impacting wellness, work productivity, and overall mental health. Women and young people are more likely than men to be diagnosed with SAD.

With three months of winter weather ahead of us, we wanted to share five ways to combat seasonal affective disorder:

Maximizing exposure to sunlight

Since SAD symptoms are worsened by the lack of sunlight, prioritizing exposure to sunlight is necessary. Consider getting outside during the day, opening the curtains and sitting near a window, or using a light therapy lamp to simulate natural light.

Fun fact: Light therapy lamps can be borrowed from the Toronto Public Library.

Move your body

Exercise boosts energy and mood levels, and getting moderate-intensity exercise for at least 15 to 30 minutes a day can be enough to see changes in your mood and wellbeing. In the city, there are many opportunities to combine exercise and exposure to sunlight such as going for a walk, snowshoeing, skating, skiing, tobogganing, and more.

Find some fun winter activities in Toronto here.

Accessible recreation facilities can be found here.

Nourish your body

Eating nourishing food can have positive impacts on our mental health. An article from Harvard Health Publishing showed that diets with high amounts of vegetables, fruits, seafood, unprocessed grains, and modest amounts of lean meats and dairy can decrease the risk of depression by 25 to 35 percent.

Find tips from Torontonians on how they are saving money on nourishing foods here.

Find community

Social connection is fundamental to our health and overall wellbeing. A report from the University of Lethbridge found that social support and interaction is particularly impactful on females and their mental health. Consider planning a hangout or Facetime with someone.

Looking for new ways to connect? Consider these recreation activities led by the City of Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/recreation/

Prioritizing care

Prioritizing your wellbeing is essential, especially in the winter. Some ways that you can take care of your wellbeing are by ensuring you are getting enough sleep, drinking water, doing activities that bring you joy, and connecting with others when you need support.

We hope these tips can add some brightness to the days ahead and help you make your mental wellness a priority.


At YWCA Toronto we offer support services for women, girls, gender diverse individuals, and families to heal and thrive.

Our Choices for Living program is a trauma informed program offering free support groups for those who wish to explore mental health wellness. In a supportive group environment, participants create a shared community and discuss common solutions for challenges they may be facing.

Other mental health resources in Toronto can be found here, or by calling 211.