Health & Wellness

How to beat the Winter Blues

by Scott Hokkanen

February can be a gloomy time of the year; grey skies, chilly weather, and midterms.

Due to a lot of these factors it’s common for people to have feelings of depression, fatigue, and irritability. Canadian mental health professionals recognize the winter blues as a common seasonal disorder.

Sure, a trip to the Dominican would probably kick those blues to the curb, but unfortunately most of us Humber and Guelph-Humber students don’t have the luxury of an expensive tropical getaway. So, alternatively here are some tips to shake your winter blues off.


Get some exercise

Snowboarder kicks up a cloud of snow while carving down a hill

Don’t let the cold weather prevent you from getting fit! With sub-zero temperatures and a lack of sunshine it can be hard to find the motivation to get out and get some exercise. Body and Health Canada says that exercise increases your body’s levels of serotonin and endorphins leading to a happier mood. You can join a gym class, or take advantage of Canada’s abundance of snow and visit a ski resort. Want to get some winter exercise outdoors without leaving the city? Try skating on the world famous ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto.

Socialize with friends and family

two men discuss stuff on bench

When you’re experiencing the Winter Blues, it’s a natural feeling to want to hibernate and isolate yourself;  but Body and Health Canada says that socializing with family and friends is important in maintaining a positive outlook. Whether this means going to a restaurant, a movie or just hanging out, surrounding yourself with loved ones and friends can help lighten your mood and keep you positive.

Listen to music

A 2013 study conducted by the University of Missouri says that listening to high-tempo upbeat music like Pharrell’s “Happy” can lead to an improved mood and a more positive outlook in both the short and long term. Listening to your favourite upbeat tunes is just one of the small steps you can take to fight off the Winter Blues.

Try some delicious hot chocolate recipes

Hot Chocolate with marshmallows floating on top

Being creative and eating well are two ways to help cope with the season. Seeing as it is so cold outside, a fun way to flex your creative muscles is to put a new spin on the classic comfort drink: hot cocoa. The Food Network has tons of recipe suggestions for adventurous cocoa lovers. Body and Health Canada says that in moderation, comfort foods can help improve one’s mood. Just make sure to also keep it fresh with fruits and vegetables that will keep you energized.

Take Vitamin D

In the summer, we normally get the Vitamin D we require from the sun. However, you may not be getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin D during the winter because of decreased exposure to sunlight. Many studies have suggested a link between Vitamin D deficiency and poor mood. Taking Vitamin D also enhances calcium absorption and leads to strong bone health. Make sure to speak to a doctor before taking any supplements.

Visit the spa

A cartoon character with a cucumber beauty face mask in a bath robe relaxing

The classic way to decompress and rid yourself of stress is to go to the spa.  Toronto is home to many highly recommended spas that offer experiences at a reasonable price. A very popular spa is Hammam Spa. On top of massage therapy, Hammam offers a variety of body treatments including nail rituals, clay raps, and Turkish baths. Another relaxing option is Elmwood Spa, which offers traditional spa treatments as well as water therapy and a juice bar.

Willing to take a trip up north of the city? Check out the Scandinave Spa near Blue Mountain. Try their waterfall and hot tub treatments after hitting the slopes for a day and you’re sure to be in a good mood.


If you’re feeling down and you don’t feel like these tips can help, make sure to talk to a trained mental health professional by using the IGNITE Student Lifeline. Our Student Lifeline is a FREE 24/7 resource you can use via your computer, toll-free telephone, or mobile app.

Student LifeLine is here to guide you in the right direction. Examples of support include:

  • Short-term counselling
  • Online resources (instant chat with a consultant, articles, blogs, podcasts, self-assessments, interactive tools and educational materials)
  • Referral to campus and community resources
  • Consultations and research on life’s everyday issues

You can also check out our tips on how to adjust back to student life after a holiday break.