Keeping your cool in the cold

The winter is brutal: It gets dark too early and the freezing temperatures make going anywhere a miserable experience. The cold environment can make it hard to find joy this season, but here are some winter rituals that might help. 

Be proactive

During the wintertime, the stronger desire to stay home can result in less social interaction. But friendships are essential to our mental health and general well-being. Try to push yourself to connect with others on a regular basis; invite your friends over for various gatherings like a dinner party or a study session. Alternatively, McGill offers plenty of volunteer opportunities such as Homework Zone or the Montreal Heart of the City Piano Program. These are great ways to simultaneously meet new people and give back to the community. 

Move it! 

When the temperatures drop, it is easy to avoid all forms of physical activity. However, keeping up with an exercise routine during the winter can provide numerous benefits for your health and can help boost your mood by increasing your levels of endorphins. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous activity for optimal overall health. Stay accountable with a membership to the McGill Athletic Centre or take advantage of the indoor track and swimming pool. If the frigid walk to the gym already feels like a marathon, develop a regimen that you can keep up with at home. 

Clean up your diet 

Committing to a healthy and regular diet can make a difference in how you feel during the winter. A diet of warm comfort food and buckets of hot chocolate can lead to headaches, increased blood pressure, and bloating. For Vincent Kwong, U2 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, meal prepping and buying in-season fruits and vegetables is how he maintains a healthy and sustainable diet. 

 “I love baking sweet potatoes and making warm soups using winter squashes,” Kwong said. “It tastes really good and is actually one of the reasons I look forward to the wintertime. It’s also a good way to meal prep, since you already make a lot. You’d also be less tempted to go out [to eat].” 

Lighten up

If the lack of sunlight gets you down, then drop by the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, at the corner of University and Milton, or the SSMU Office, located in the Brown Building, to use their light lamps for free. These light lamps, which are offered first come, first serve, mimic sunshine and can help suppress your body’s release of melatonin, a chemical that makes you drowsy. McGill’s guidelines recommend using the lamp for 1 hour at 16 inches away from you, or 30 minutes at 12 inches everyday, optimally first thing in the morning. Using light lamps can make a difference within just a few days, so take advantage of them and go light up your life. 

Take care of your skin 

The water in your skin evaporates more quickly in the winter, which results in a dry and tight feeling  in your skin. Investing in a humidifier can add moisture to the air and keep your skin hydrated. You can also try out different lotions and cleansers to see which works best for your skin. Another important skin care tip is to stay hydrated.

While these lifestyle changes may boost your mood, these tips don’t substitute proper solutions to mood disorders, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, consider consulting a professional. 

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